Gait (human)

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Human gait is the way locomotion is achieved using human limbs. For this article different gaits do not require changes in the geometry of motion, but rather, changes in the contact with the surface (ground, floor, etc).


Like crawl, walking can refer to a specific gait or to many gaits involving two-beat, bipedal locomotion where one foot is always touching the ground.

Walk is the most common human gait. It involves one foot placed forward with the second placed the same distance beyond the first. It can provide good move speeds with relatively little energy input and low (typically minimal) strain on the body.


Marching is the second most useful of the gaits or sub-gait for locomotion, although it is typically only used in the military or marching bands. It is a sub-gait because it is in essence walking. The main differences are that side-to-side motion is virtually removed and the weight is placed on the leading foot, rather than equidistant between the two, as in walk. This produces a highly efficient, high speed walk which is far more energy efficient than running and can produce 2x to 4x a typical walk's speed.

Speed walking

Speed (or race) walking is a modified walk where the leg must be straight as it passes below the hip, which is not a requirement for marching. This is mainly because a march will often cause a person to overstep, and that marching is but slightly off of running and would be extremely difficult to tell the difference in a race.


Backpedaling is simply a walk in the opposite direction without changing facing.


Carry is simply a walk where the body is shifted forward so that the centre of mass remains either equidistant (carry-walk) or on the front foot (carry-march). This is used for carrying weight on the back.

Ghost walk

A ghost walk is designed for minimum sound. This is the quietest of all ways of moving on a surface. A regular walk has the heel landing first then the flat (with the body's weight), then a push off from the toes. Ghost walk has the heel landing first, followed by the outer ridge and then a push off from the toe. The weight is distributed during the entire movement, rather than suddenly.

See also: sneak and tiptoe

Stalk or prowl

A stalk or prowl is essentially a walk while in a full squat. This is designed to be a walk that maintains a low profile. A good soldier can keep the profile as low as a regular crawl.

Bear walk

Also known as tick-tock, the bear walk is the only non-practical walk. It is essentially a walk or a march (bear march), where each arm is brought up with the leg on the same side rather than the opposite side. This twists the body, and is inefficient and less comfortable; however it has some rhythm and so does not automatically switch to phase with the opposite leg. If it is done on purpose it is done solely because it looks awkward and unintuitive. This can also happen early in footdrill training, where the recruit may suddenly find themself in an awkward gait.


A sub-gait of walking where if the feet are brought off the ground it is done only so much as necessary.

Knee walk

Also known as shikkō in Japanese martial arts (especially aikido), a 2-beat gait that starts with one foot and the other knee on the ground. The kneeling foot is brought forward and the standing foot rotates down to a kneel. This is used to keep the centre-of-mass as close to the ground as possible (by force or volition), while still being able to move and fight.

Hand walking

Hand walking is when the walker moves primarily using their hands.



Running is nearly identical to walking or marching except that the person is actually airborne once each beat. This is the chief high-speed gait of humans. The beats happen faster and the distance traveled per-beat is also much higher. Running requires a lot more energy than walking.


Jogging is a sub-gait of run where the pace is much less and the legs nearly never go out of the body's centreline.


Sprinting is to running what marching is to walking. The speed is much greater and the weight is put on top of or even beyond the front foot. This can quickly deplete all of the anaerobic energy the person has stored.

Air borne shuffle

Essentially half-way between marching and jogging, where the feet are pulled just off the ground. This is to provide a middle ground between marching and jogging.


Crawls can refer to the specific gait or to any gait involving the arms and legs.


Crawling is a specific 4-beat gait involving the hands and knees. A typical crawl is left-hand, right-knee, right-hand, left-knee, or a hand, the diagonal knee, the other hand then its diagonal knee. This is the first gait most humans learn, and is really only practical during early childhood, or when looking for something on the floor or under low relief. It can be used to move with a lower silhouette, but there are better crawls for that purpose. This is the most natural of the crawls and is the one that requires the least effort.

Bear crawl

The bear crawl is almost identical to the regular crawl, but the feet are used instead of the knees, which creates an arched or squatted body posture. This works as a faster crawl but requires more effort to maintain.

Leopard crawl/Low crawl

The leopard crawl is a military-specific crawl. There are two versions, the leopard crawl proper and a modified version for when carrying weapons in the hands. This is a two-beat gait where an arm/elbow is advanced with the diagonal knee. This is designed for the smallest silhouette possible, and the body is often nearly or actually touching the ground, and although the elbow and knee are the main focus, most of the respective limbs touch the ground.

Tiger crawl

The tiger crawl is essentially a highly accelerated combination between crawl and leopard crawl. It uses the hands and the knees/feet depending upon the situation, while maintaining a silhouette almost as small as that of the leopard crawl. This is relatively fast gait but can take large amounts of energy.



Hopping is a 1-beat gait on either one or two feet. 1-foot hops are practical when a limb is no longer usable.


A 3-beat, 4-beat, or 6-beat gait where a foot is repeated (i.e. L,L,R, R,R,L, L,L,R,L,R,R, etc. but there are many variations there of: L,L,R,R, etc.) It is typically considered an expression of giddiness, but it can be used in the place of run when one limb is injured but can still be used, (mild sprain).


Half-way between a run and a skip. A three-beat gait (i.e. R,R,L or L,L,R) in which between the second and the third beats there is basically a run. There are three types "The fast skun", "The slow skun", and "The fancy skun."


A two-beat gait similar to walk except that one of the paces is significantly shorter than the other. This is done to favor a non-injured limb.


A two-beat gait where one foot is moved to the side and the other is brought to meet (rather than pass) it. This is used for moving sideways.


Computer gaming jargon for a two-beat gait where one foot is moved to the side and the other is brought past it. This term is popularly used to describe sideways movement by the player in first-person shooters.

Military paces

In the military there are various standard paces:

  • Quick March: The basic mobility. 120-beats/min (2 hertz), 30" pace.
  • Double March: The basic run. 240-beats/min (4 hertz).
  • Highland March: Regiment specific pace, 80-beats/min. Used when wearing kilts.
  • Rifle March: Regiment specific pace, 180-beats/min.
  • Slow March: Ceremonial pace, 40-60 beats/min.
  • Parade March: Usually seen combined with music, ~108 beats/min. in the UK, ~120 beats/min. in the USA
  • Paso Legionario: Specific march used by the Spanish Legion, 144 beats/min, embodiment of their "espiritu de marcha".

There are various other requirements for marching (excluding 2x-time.) The British and her Commonwealth bring their arms chest-pocket high. Countries of the Eastern Bloc often have the leg kept straight on the forward pace. These actually aid in maintaining speed and increase efficiency for long range travel.

See also