Does the preferred walk-run transition speed on steep inclines minimize energetic cost, heart rate or neither?

J Exp Biol. 2021 Feb 12;224(Pt 3):jeb233056. doi: 10.1242/jeb.233056.


As walking speed increases, humans choose to transition to a running gait at their preferred transition speed (PTS). Near that speed, it becomes metabolically cheaper to run rather than to walk and that defines the energetically optimal transition speed (EOTS). Our goals were to determine: (1) how PTS and EOTS compare across a wide range of inclines and (2) whether the EOTS can be predicted by the heart rate optimal transition speed (HROTS). Ten healthy, high-caliber, male trail/mountain runners participated. On day 1, subjects completed 0 and 15 deg trials and on day 2, they completed 5 and 10 deg trials. We calculated PTS as the average of the walk-to-run transition speed (WRTS) and the run-to-walk transition speed (RWTS) determined with an incremental protocol. We calculated EOTS and HROTS from energetic cost and heart rate data for walking and running near the expected EOTS for each incline. The intersection of the walking and running linear regression equations defined EOTS and HROTS. We found that PTS, EOTS and HROTS all were slower on steeper inclines. PTS was slower than EOTS at 0, 5 and 10 deg, but the two converged at 15 deg. Across all inclines, PTS and EOTS were only moderately correlated. Although EOTS correlated with HROTS, EOTS was not predicted accurately by heart rate on an individual basis.

Keywords: Gait transition; Locomotion; Metabolic cost; Uphill.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Energy Metabolism
  • Gait
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Running*
  • Walking*