Foot-placement accuracy during planned and reactive target stepping during walking in stroke survivors and healthy adults

Ulrike Hammerbeck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The high prevalence of falls due to trips and slips following stroke may signify difficulty adjusting foot-placement in response to the environment. However, little is known about under what circumstances foot-placement adjustment becomes difficult for stroke survivors (SS), making the design of targeted rehabilitation interventions to improve independent community mobility difficult.

Research question
To investigate the effect of planned and reactive target-stepping on foot-placement accuracy in stroke survivors and young and older healthy adults?

Young (N = 11, 30 ± 6 years) and older (N = 10, 64 ± 8 years) healthy adults and SS (N = 11, 67 ± 9 years) walked, at preferred pace, on a force instrumented treadmill. Each participant walked to illuminated targets, visible two steps in advance (planned) or appearing at contralateral midstance (reactive). Foot-placement error (magnitude and bias) and number of missed targets were compared.

All participants missed more reactive than planned targets (p = 0.05), and SS missed more targets than young (p < 0.001) and older (p = 0.001) adults. But no interaction showing SS missed more reactive targets than other groups was found. For all groups: reactive adaptations to steps in the antero-posterior plane resulted in lower error than planned adaptations (p = 0.027). Lengthening steps where undershot more than shortening (p < 0.001) by all groups. Reactive medio-lateral adaptations over all induced larger error (p = 0.029) than planned and changed the direction of bias (p = 0.018).

SS experience difficulty making all adjustments, they showed increased error in all conditions but less pronounced difference between planned and reactive stepping. SS may use a reactive control strategy for all adjustments, in contrast to healthy young adults who may plan foot-placement in advance. The likelihood of stroke survivors misplacing a step is large, with 9.8% targets missed; possibly leading to falls. Further investigation is needed to understand foot-placement control strategies used by SS and the role of planning in gait adaptability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-267
Number of pages7
JournalGait & Posture
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2020


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