The Running Gait Cycle

Take a look at this fantastic video of the runner’s gait cycle.
Consider the LEFT leg ONLY of the runner in the middle lane of the video.

Please note: the stages of the running gait cycle are the exactly the same as the walking gait cycle. The only differences are: a walker spends roughly 70% of the time in stance phase as opposed to about 30% for a runner. Also a runner spends a short period of time in between phases where neither feet are in contact with the ground often termed a floating phase, but because we are only focussing on one leg, its incorporated in the stance and swing phases.

So let’s summarise the gait cycle…

In our images below, we refer ONLY to the runner’s LEFT leg.

The Stance Phase
The Stance Phase comprises of load bearing stages starting with..

Initial Contact
-Heel Strike on the contact foot
the body moves forward to…

Loading Response
-Foot Flat
The contact leg has:
— ankle dorsiflexion,
— knee flexion,
— hip flexion;
this is the body’s way of dissipating the load of impact


Refer to Anatomical Body Movement Reference for explanations of flexion, extension and dorsiflexion.

Note in the video the runner has a heel strike. In our static image above, the barefoot runner is a midfoot stiker, so goes straight into Loading Response.


Mid Stance
Foot directly underneath the hip.

– This is where the body experiences peak loading

– This is the end dissipating load and the start propulsion





Terminal Stance

– Heel Off









– ends in Toe Off

— fully extended at the hip
— extended at the knee
— plantar flexed
(ignore the windlass mechanism referred to in the video for now)





The Swing Phase
The Swing phase comprises of the non bearing stages starting with..

Initial Swing
– starts with Toe Off
– non-load bearing phase of the gait starts







Mid Swing
– hip flexion
– knee flexion
– ankle gently dorsiflexed







Late or Terminal Swing
– peak hip flexion
– peak knee flexion
– knee extension
– ends with Heel or Midfoot Strike.







and we cycle through Stance Phase – Initial Contact again.

This is the basic Running Gait Cycle, and in future articles we shall be referring back to this time and again.

Images by Muybridge, Eadweard, 1830-1904 –, Public Domain,

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