Walking - Vs Over-ground Walking – are there differences

Treadmill walking offers several advantages compared to normal over-ground walking. In addition to providing a warm, dry and well lit environment treadmill speed and incline can easily by modified. These additional challenges can be used to determine how the walker is able to adapt to differing conditions.

However, the question remains i.e. are these two surface equivalent for the type of walking patern they produce.

Several researchers have compared barefoot walking over-ground and on a treadmill to determine if there are any key differences.


Research supporting there is a difference...

A study by Alton et al., (1998) reported that subjects walking on a treadmill walked with increased hip flexion, greater speed (self selected) and with a higher cadence. These results were in agreement with an earlier study by Murray et al., (1985) who also reported an increase in cadence with treadmill use.


Research supporting there is no difference...

A later study by Riley et al (2007) reported on both kinematic and kinetic changes between treadmill and over-ground walking. Their study used a force plate instrumented treadmill and reported maximal and minimal values for each kinetic variable. These authors reported that all differences were less than three degrees which was attributed to be within the range of repeatability for over-ground walking.

A study by Tulchin et al (2010) which evaluated ankle motion with a slightly more detailed approach reported as finding multi-segment foot kinematics during over-ground and treadmill walking to be similar in healthy adults.




To date the evidence suggests that the walking patterns are comparable for walking on treadmill and over-ground.





Alton F., Baldey I., Caplan S., Morrissey M., (1998).

A kinematic comparison of over-ground and treadmill walking.

J. Biomech 1998; 13: 434-40.


Murray M., Spurr G., Sepic S., Gardner G., Mollinger L. (1985).

Treadmill vs floor walking: kinematics, electromyogram and heart rate.

J Appl Physiol 1985; 59(1): 87-91.


Riley P., Paolini G. Della Croce U., Paylo K., Kerrigan D. (2007).

A kinematic and kinetic comparison of over-ground and treadmill walking in healthy subjects.

GaitPosture 2007; 26(1): 17-24.


Tulchin K., Orendurff M., Karol L. (2010).

A comparison of multi-segment foot kinematics during level over-ground treadmill walking.

Gait and Posture 31(2010) 104 – 108.





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