The basal ganglia are thought to play an important role in regulating motor programs involved in gait and in the fluidity and sequencing of movement. We postulated that the ability to maintain a steady gait, with low stride-to-stride variability of gait cycle timing and its subphases, would be diminished with both Parkinson's disease (PD) and Huntington's disease (HD). To test this hypothesis, we obtained quantitative measures of stride-to-stride variability of gait cycle timing in subjects with PD (n = 15), HD (n = 20), and disease-free controls (n = 16). All measures of gait variability were significantly increased in PD and HD. In subjects with PD and HD, gait variability measures were two and three times that observed in control subjects, respectively. The degree of gait variability correlated with disease severity. In contrast, gait speed was significantly lower in PD, but not in HD, and average gait cycle duration and the time spent in many subphases of the gait cycle were similar in control subjects, HD subjects, and PD subjects. These findings are consistent with a differential control of gait variability, speed, and average gait cycle timing that may have implications for understanding the role of the basal ganglia in locomotor control and for quantitatively assessing gait in clinical settings.