Dr. Allen’s Quiz question of the week. See if you can get this one.

Reference point is the Girl in the middle, big sister. Choose all that apply. Note: there is something deeper than the obvious going on here, it doesn’t make sense. Can you see it ? 

a. she (big sister) is out of phase with her little sister 

b. she is in phase with her little sister

c. she is out of phase with her little brother

d. she is in phase with her little brother

e.  A and C

f.  B and C

g. B and D

h. A and D

i. AC~DC rules

Yes, Answer  “i” is always right.

otherwise the answer is … . scroll down









F. she is in phase with her sister to her left and out of phase with her brother (at least if you are referencing her leg swing).  With her little sister, left feet are both forward in swing at the same time.

However, there is something deeper and requires some true critical thinking. IF you got the answer correct, congratulations. IF you did not, type in “in phase gait” or “arm swing” into the blog search engine and you will be able to read more about “in phase” and “out of phase” gaits.  

Now, look at the picture again. If she is “in phase” with her little sister to the left big sister should technically have her left arm in anterior/forward swing to meet little sister’s right arm swing. But, big sister’s left foot is forward, which technically means her left arm swing should be posterior to match her normal Anti-phasic gait.  But this does not pair with little sister. Can you see that this is a conflict in synchrony ? 

In phase and phasic are not the same thing, nor are out of phase and anti-phasic. Search our blog for these differences.  

Obviously you should glean by now that “In and out of phase” gait refers to the leg swing. Whereas, phasic and anti phasic gait refers to the synchrony of the upper and lower limbs in an individual.  The lower limb spinal cord motor neuron pools are more dominant than the upper arm pools (except in climbing, which is why I spent so much time last week talking about climbing and crawling here on the blog). Thus the lower legs often run the protocols and thus why arm swing changes should not be primarily or initially coached or amended in an athlete, they are very adaptive and accommodating.  The legs need to run the show, we need our arms free to be able to carry things while walking or running (water bottle, babies, spears, rifle, brief case etc) without disrupting the normal leg swing gait mechanics.  

Big sister is “out of phase” with her brother when it comes to the legs, but their arm swings are matching in phase so that there is no conflict. When people walk “out of phase” their arm swings will always match. Thus, it would seem that this is the more harmonious way to walk with a partner. 

So how are they all walking together ? Certainly not in harmony.

Obviously the little sister is not in sync with big sister. She is much shorter, and thus her step length is going to be different and that is the likely answer. She will have to pick up cadence to keep up and that will mean much of the time she will not synchronize with her big sister. As I mentioned in a prior post on these topics, often the larger or more dominant person’s arm swing will dictate the arm swing pattern of the other partner, and this will in turn, dictate how the lower limbs synchronize to the dominant partner. It would make sense that perfect harmony would bring about “out of phase” leg swing, but it does not always occur. Why? There are many reasons I discussed here today, things like differing arm and leg lengths and step lengths come to mind.

* There is one more option, none of them are in anti-phasic gait. Maybe they all have back pain 🙂 Back pain patients tend to shift towards phasic gait to reduce spinal torsion and shear. If they all are anti-phasic then arm and leg swing matter very little in terms of full limb swing propulsive gait. This is quite possible as well, perhaps this is just a still photo representing a very slow strolling gait and thus little need for anti phasic gaits from all 3 of them. 

Neat points if you are a true gait nerd. Did you catch it ? A picture is worth a thousand words.

Hope this little quiz helped you to put some pieces together.

One more thing, here is a clinical pearl. By walking hand in hand with someone, you can help a person learn arm swing and leg swing and how to create a clean cadence, the normal anti-phasic gait, and learn how to dual task as well as add audible, visual and tactile queues to one’s gait. It is a great tool for helping neurologic gait pathologies, post stroke gait training and helping someone who has joint replacements or back pain regain normal anti-phasic gait traits where gait has become phasic and apropulsive. 

Dr. Shawn Allen

Using a boot to heal a bone, tendon, post-op ?  Think deeper please.

Please please, please ! If you are going to put your client in a CAM rocker boot/shoe for a fracture, or post-op can you please try to level out the leg length discrepancy caused by the thickness of the boot’s sole ? Please ? Pretty please with sugar on top?

Some boot brands have a huge midsole thickness. This leads to a functionally longer leg length. If they are barefoot much of the day, there will be a huge leg length discrepancy. If in shoes all day, you can offset this with a sole lift in the healthy foot’s shoe or you can add something like this to the outsole. Use common sense. IF someone is in a CAM boot for 6 weeks and thus a longer leg, this is going to promote a knee flexed posture on the boot side (ie. shortens the leg) and/or hyperextension of the healthy leg’s knee, supination of the foot, more forefoot habitus (sustained calf loads) and even frontal plane lurch pelvis gait mechanics (this is why many folks will get opposite hip pain). These embedded gait flaws must be addressed and remedied after they are out of the boot to reset normal gait. We have seen enough problems come to our offices that are suspect as a result of prolonged boot use and failure to reteach normal gait patterns, meaning, to reduce the learned gait behaviors of being in a boot for prolonged periods. Gait retraining is just as important as the rehab post-boot removal.  Of course, this is rarely done.  Using logic is never a bad thing.   

Dr. Shawn Allen, one of the gait guys

Here is a neat device we found to help.http://www.braceshop.com/procare-evenup-shoe-balancer-walker-system.htm?gdftrk=gdfV28018_a_7c2568_a_7c10961_a_7c32290&gclid=Cj0KEQiA37CnBRChp7e-pM2Mzp0BEiQAlSxQCCeL74AvCkYXbQX_jV1jEP27mfocB87f8pSfbo2PZMIaAsOV8P8HAQ

Does gait (re)training alter peoples biomechanics? 

You bet it does! Should we be retraining peoples gait? We like to think, yes. What do you think?

“Overall, this systematic review shows that many biomechanical parameters can be altered by running modification training programmes. These interventions result in short term small to large effects on kinetic, kinematic and spatiotemporal outcomes during running. In general, runners tend to employ a distal strategy of gait modification unless given specific cues. The most effective strategy for reducing high-risk factors for running-related injury-such as impact loading-was through real-time feedback of kinetics and/or kinematics.’

Br J Sports Med. 2015 Jun 23. pii: bjsports-2014-094393. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2014-094393. [Epub ahead of print]
Gait modifications to change lower extremity gait biomechanics in runners: a systematic review.
Napier C1, Cochrane CK1, Taunton JE2, Hunt MA1.

Does gait (re)training alter peoples biomechanics? You bet it does! Should we be retraining peoples gait? We like to think, yes. What do you think?

“Overall, this systematic review shows that many biomechanical parameters can be altered by running modification training programmes. These interventions result in short term small to large effects on kinetic, kinematic and spatiotemporal outcomes during running. In general, runners tend to employ a distal strategy of gait modification unless given specific cues. The most effective strategy for reducing high-risk factors for running-related injury-such as impact loading-was through real-time feedback of kinetics and/or kinematics.’

Br J Sports Med. 2015 Jun 23. pii: bjsports-2014-094393. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2014-094393. [Epub ahead of print]
Gait modifications to change lower extremity gait biomechanics in runners: a systematic review.
Napier C1, Cochrane CK1, Taunton JE2, Hunt MA1.

Toe Walking in Children. Do you know what you are dealing with ? Part 2

So you have now ruled out possible Autism-spectrum, possible CMT (Charcot-Marie Tooth Disease), CP (Cerebral Palsy), MD (Muscular Dystrophy) in your young toe walking individual.  Now you have been left with the aftermath foggy diagnosis of “Idiopathy Toe Walking”, that doesn’t leave you as a parent or clinician with much to work with or likely to be confident about. Let us try to help make things clearer and give you some other cognitive options to entertain. New research in recent years has brought new light onto the issue and we wanted to use today’s blog post as a platform to share it with you. 

In a previous week’s “Part 1” blog post & video (link) you can see in the gait on the video that nothing appears to be terribly abnormal in the foot structure (from what we can tell), the client is merely remaining in the plantarflexed posture and forefoot weight bearing.  This is highly ineffective gait and can be very fatiguing let alone to mention the sustained loading into the posterior compartment and plantarflexor mechanism (gastrosoleus-achilles) not to mention the sustained forefoot loading response on the foot bones and joints. Remember, the tibialis posterior and long toe flexors are close neighbors with capabilities of plantarflexion moments, so there are possible clinical manifestations there as well not to mention the obvious (especially to long-time Gait Guys readers) deficits that will be found in functional ankle dorsiflexion, ankle rocker and S.E.S. (skill, endurance, strength) of the anterior compartment mechanism (tibialis anterior, long toe extensors, peroneus tertius).  Even if this client were to go into normal heel strike and stance phases right now, they would have lots of work to do to restore the anterior-posterior compartment balance, the 3 foot rockers (heel, ankle and forefoot) abd posterior compartment length to avoid functional pathology not to mention the timely coordination of all these events. 

Idiopathic toe walking is suggested to be as prevalent as 12%. Toe walking is categorized when there is an absence, or at least a limitation, of heel strike during initial walking gait contact phase. We are not referring to, at all, forefoot running principles. Neuromotor maturation comes about via the suppression of the primitive reflexes/windows and appearance of the postural reflexes and responses. Delays or subtractions of these windows/reflexes may cause challenges in the normal development and maturation of the central and/or peripheral nervous systems.  With toe walking, the clinical window most studies suggest is to begin investigation after 3 years of age when the primitive motor patterns should have solidified and the gait and postural patterns have begun to layer on top of those primitive reflexes.  Remember though, the primitive patterns are not sequentially fixed, meaning that infants move in and out of these reflexes until they become skilled and permanent.  It is not until they are fixed that the postural patterns, which are volitional, can be gradually built. This should bring some deeper thoughts to your mind right now.  Is toe walking behavior a missed primitive window or a non-volitional postural window? These kids are not doing this by choice, anyone who has worked with these types of cases knows this very well, and we have seen our share. 

In the literature and clinics a plethora of things have been tried and discussed (ie. serial casting, botulinum toxin, surgical tendon lengthening, gait retraining, orthoses/orthotics, night splints, day splints and the like). Keep in mind that only one of the above is addressing a functional change via cognitive and higher brain center demand, “gait retraining”. The others are passive forced attempts.  But is gait training enough ? And how far back into primitive and postural gait pattern training do you have to go? Gait training certainly does something as eluded to by two research papers we posted on our Facebook page in previous weeks. See those references below.

“For both feet, contact time of the heel was increased after the training period, whereas contact time of the forefeet decrease. Also positive changes in the active range of joint motion of the ankle (dorsal extension) were observed in both feet. These positive effects were visible also in the follow—up assessment.” -Pelykh study

Daily intensive gait training may influence the elastic properties of ankle joint muscles and facilitate toe lift and heel strike in children with CP. Intensive gait training may be beneficial in preventing contractures and maintain gait ability in children with CP.” – Willerslev-Olsen study

So what else could be going on here ? Is this neurodevelopmental ? Yes, for sure.  But where did things go awry ?  And how do we fix it ? Remember, the development of primitive and postural reflexes is supposed to occur proximal to distal (ie. from core to hand/foot).

In a recent study in the Journal of Child Neurology,  

“for the first time, motor and sensory challenges presenting in healthy children with an idopathic toe walking gait have been identified.These challenges imply an immaturity or mild impairment at the cerebellum or motor cortex level.”

As the article suggested, the research did not render direct cause(s) for the gait pattern, rather some very viable theories on the topic. They found that only the areas of balance, upper body coordination and bilateral coordination were areas found to be problematic in the toe walkers. These 3 components require the integration of the tactile, vestibular and proprioceptive systems as a team. Diving deeper into how these 3 outputs are linked, there is a required “mix of occulomotor control and cues together with subtle and gross postural adjustments” (3). As Williams et al (3) suggested, “they are skills requiring the coordination of movements in which each side of the body moves simultaneously or in sequence”.  Kind of sounds like some topics on Arm Swing/Leg swing and also on the topic of phasic/antiphasic gait we have discussed over and over again here on TGG and in recent podcasts (82) doesn’t it ?  It was proposed that perhaps idiopathic toe walkers negotiate their sensory challenges by unconsciously engaging toe walking behavior to change or challenge these inputs.  Here were some of the proposed thoughts from the Williams study.

“The tactile receptors of the skin may be stimulated through pressure at the ball of the foot or lessened by a reduction of surface contact by raising the heel off the ground. Proprioceptive input may be changed at the knee, ankle and even toe joints by unconsciously repositioning of the foot posture.  The vestibular input may be increased by the vertical stimulation of the bouncy type gait that results from toe walking.”(3) Williams

It seems clear from the Williams study that these children demonstrate a number of sensory needs that motivate toe walking to alter (increase or decrease) or improve sensory input.  The study also suggests that the toe walking gait is an attempt to modify input on postural stimuli during gait to serve diminished postural and position awareness.

The findings of this study are important.  Our most recent blog posts and podcasts (Nov 2014) have discussed some of the components to build, control and coordinate gait on a higher neurologic level. The Williams article seems to support these discussions, that some pathologic gaits are initiated on a neurologic level as opposed to biomechanical at the foot and ankle level.  This sounds like the work offered by “the functional neurologist”, graduates of the Carrick Institute for Graduate Studies ! (carrickinstitute.com)

Have a great day gait brethren !

Shawn and Ivo, The Gait Guys


1. Eur J Phys Rehabil Med. 2014 Oct 9. [Epub ahead of print]

Treatment outcome of visual feedback training in an adult patient with habitual toe walking.

NeuroRehabilitation. 2014 Oct 15. [Epub ahead of print]

2. Gait training reduces ankle joint stiffness and facilitates heel strike in children with Cerebral Palsy.

3. Is idiopathic toe walking really idiopathic ? The motor skills and sensory processing abilities associated with idiopathic toe walking gait.  J Child Neurol 2014, 29:71 Williams, C. , Curtin, Wakefield and Nielsen

Remapping the Cortex: How Rehab Exercise does it.

Below are two studies that we recently incorporated into 2 neurologic gait cases during one of our global teleseminars on www.onlineCE.com.  You can find that lecture there in a few weeks but we have dozens of our other presentations available there presently. 

Injury to a body part starts a reorganization of the brain cortex. We know this occurs from a plethora of studies but most of them are based on injury induced changes and not from treatment-induced means.  These studies support the treatment induced changes that occur in the central nervous system, and they are profound and give us comfort and validity in our work. The findings of these studies should not be a shock to you if you are in the work of manual therapy and rehab. 

The one study used transcranial magnetic stimulation to map the cortical motor output area of a hand muscles on both sides in 13 stroke patients in the chronic stage of their illness before and after a 12-day-period of constraint-induced movement therapy.

What they found was “post treatment the muscle output area size in the affected hemisphere was significantly enlarged, corresponding to a greatly improved motor performance of the paretic limb”. As the study showed, this suggested a recruitment of adjacent brain areas. Even at 6 month follow up examinations “the motor performance remained at a high level, whereas the cortical area sizes in the 2 hemispheres became almost identical, representing a return of the balance of excitability between the 2 hemispheres toward a normal condition.”

The second study (2) looked at limb immobilization in 10 right-handed subjects with right upper extremity injury that required at least 14 days of limb immobilization. Subjects underwent 2 MRI examinations post injury, 48 hours and 16 days post immobilization. Cortical thickness of sensorimotor regions and FA of the corticospinal tracts was measured.  The findings showed “a decrease in cortical thickness in the left primary motor and somatosensory area as well as a decrease in FA in the left corticospinal tract. In addition, the motor skill of the left (noninjured) hand improved and is related to increased cortical thickness and FA in the right motor cortex.”

These studies suggest the findings are associated with skill transfer from the right to the left hand. It was suggested that immobilization induces rapid reorganization of the sensorimotor system. 

Rehab works, but everyone here on The Gait Guys already knew that. It is just nice to know the specifics of “how”.  

Please go to these articles and get the specifics for yourself. Don’t take our word for it ! 


1. Stroke. 2000 Jun;31(6):1210-6.Treatment-induced cortical reorganization after stroke in humans. Liepert J1, Bauder H, Wolfgang HR, Miltner WH, Taub E, Weiller C.

2. Langer N, et al “Effects of limb immobilization on brain plasticity”Neurology 2012; 78: 182–188.