Impaired foot placement strategy during walking in people with incomplete spinal cord injury

Eline Zwijgers*, Edwin H.F. van Asseldonk, Marije Vos-van der Hulst, Alexander C.H. Geurts, Noël L.W. Keijsers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
22 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Impaired balance during walking is a common problem in people with incomplete spinal cord injury (iSCI). To improve walking capacity, it is crucial to characterize balance control and how it is affected in this population. The foot placement strategy, a dominant mechanism to maintain balance in the mediolateral (ML) direction during walking, can be affected in people with iSCI due to impaired sensorimotor control. This study aimed to determine if the ML foot placement strategy is impaired in people with iSCI compared to healthy controls. Methods: People with iSCI (n = 28) and healthy controls (n = 19) performed a two-minute walk test at a self-paced walking speed on an instrumented treadmill. Healthy controls performed one extra test at a fixed speed set at 50% of their preferred speed. To study the foot placement strategy of a participant, linear regression was used to predict the ML foot placement based on the ML center of mass position and velocity. The accuracy of the foot placement strategy was evaluated by the root mean square error between the predicted and actual foot placements and was referred to as foot placement deviation. Independent t-tests were performed to compare foot placement deviation of people with iSCI versus healthy controls walking at two different walking speeds. Results: Foot placement deviation was significantly higher in people with iSCI compared to healthy controls independent of walking speed. Participants with iSCI walking in the self-paced condition exhibited 0.40 cm (51%) and 0.33 cm (38%) higher foot placement deviation compared to healthy controls walking in the self-paced and the fixed-speed 50% condition, respectively. Conclusions: Higher foot placement deviation in people with iSCI indicates an impaired ML foot placement strategy in individuals with iSCI compared to healthy controls.

Original languageEnglish
Article number134
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of neuroengineering and rehabilitation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • Balance
  • Foot placement strategy
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Walking


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