A 'step-to' gait decreases pressures on the forefoot

Heather E. Brown, Michael J. Mueller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Physical therapists use various gait training strategies to reduce stress on the lower extremities, but we could find no description or evaluation of the step-to gait using a cane. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of a step-to gait pattern and a cane on peak plantar pressures on the forefoot and the heel. Ten healthy subjects were evaluated (five females, five males, mean age = 24.6 ± 4.9 years). In addition, one subject with peripheral neuropathy was tested to determine if a patient could be trained to use the step-to walking pattern and show similar results. All subjects were instructed in four walking conditions: step-to with and without a cane and step-through with and without a cane. Walking speed during the step-through pattern (normal walking) was matched to the speed of the step- to pattern. For the 10 healthy subjects, peak plantar pressures and walking speed of each of the four conditions were compared using a 2 x 2 repeated measures analysis of variance. One factor was gait pattern and one factor was use of a cane. Peak plantar pressures decreased an average of 53% on the forefoot but increased an average of 14% on the heel when subjects walked using step-to gait compared with a step-through gait. There was no effect due to use of a cane or walking speed between the conditions. The patient with peripheral neuropathy demonstrated a similar pattern but greater magnitude of changes compared with the healthy subjects. The foot initiating the step-to pattern showed a reduction in peak plantar pressures on the forefoot, probably because the foot remained fiat during stance phase and a large push- off was not required. The step-to pattern, however, results in a slower and less symmetrical gait. The use of a step-to gait may be beneficial for patient populations that need to reduce plantar pressures on the forefoot.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-145
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1998


  • Biomechanics
  • Diabetes
  • Foot
  • Gait

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