Walking is like a dance of the body’s parts – joints and muscles in sync. To truly understand how we move, let’s take a closer look at the different phases of walking. These are not just steps; they’re the building blocks of how we stroll. Let’s dive into the phases, understand how they work together, and discover the magic of our joints and muscles in action.

By comprehending the significance of each stage, the way they intertwine, and the roles played by our main joints, we can uncover the mechanics of walking. In this article, we embark on a journey to delve into the essential phases of walking, unveiling how our joints and muscles collaborate in each step.

Stance Phase: The Steady Ground

Imagine a walk in slow motion, and you’ll see that around 60% of that time, one foot is firmly on the ground. This is the stance phase. Let’s break down what’s happening with our joints and muscles:

  • Pelvis: The pelvis stays steady, acting like a solid base that holds us up and keeps us balanced.
  • Hip: As the foot touches the ground, the hip slightly moves forward, then back as we shift our weight, helping us move forward. The gluteal muscles, the big ones at our buttocks, play a role in keeping us steady and moving our hip.
  • Knee: When our foot lands, the knee bends a little. This bending helps our body absorb the shock. As we move, the knee straightens to keep us steady, and it’s our quadriceps and hamstrings – the muscles at the front and back of our thighs – that make this happen.
  • Ankle: When the foot lands, the ankle bends, and as we move, it pushes off the ground, giving us momentum. It’s our calf muscles – the ones in our lower legs – that do this work.
  • Foot: Our foot goes through some fancy moves during this phase. At first, it rolls inward a bit to absorb the shock. As we push off the ground, it rolls outward. It’s a teamwork of muscles and tendons in our foot and lower leg that keeps us steady.

By understanding what each joint and muscle is doing during the stance phase, we get a peek into the magic of walking. This knowledge helps us improve the way we move.

Swing Phase: The Graceful Lift

Now, let’s imagine the other 40% of our walk – the time when one foot is off the ground. This is the swing phase. Here’s what’s happening:

  • Pelvis: The pelvis tilts slightly forward, helping our leg move without tripping. Muscles in our hips, like the hip flexors, help with this movement.
  • Hip: As we take a step, our hip bends, getting ready for the next stride. It’s the hip flexor muscles again that lift our thigh and help our leg move forward.
  • Knee: Our knee bends as our leg swings forward, giving space for our foot to clear the ground. The muscles at the back of our thighs, like the hamstrings, make this bending possible.
  • Ankle: The ankle bends upward as our foot swings forward, preventing it from hitting the ground. A muscle at the front of our shin, the tibialis anterior, takes care of this movement.
  • Foot: During this phase, the foot relaxes, not actively taking part in moving us forward. It’s like our foot is just going with the flow.

All these joint movements during the swing phase work together, creating a seamless motion. This smooth teamwork lets us move without stumbling and keeps us balanced.

Transitions: From Stance to Swing and Back

The moments when we shift from one phase to another are crucial. This is where balance and movement meet:

  • Weight Transfer: As the stance phase ends, we shift our weight from one leg to the other. Muscles in our hips and legs help us move our center of gravity smoothly.
  • Initiation of Swing: The next phase starts with a lift of our leg, powered by muscles like the hip flexors and quadriceps. Our foot clears the ground, thanks to the tibialis anterior.
  • Balance and Stability: When we’re between phases, with both feet off the ground, we’re still stable. Our joints and muscles work together to keep us from falling.
  • Efficient Movement: Our body moves smoothly from stance to swing. This transition helps us save energy and move more easily.
  • Shock Absorption: The way our ankle moves during these transitions helps absorb shock, saving our joints from too much stress.
Gait phases


In summary, the transitions between stance and swing phases are pivotal moments in walking. The interplay of joints like the hip, knee, ankle, and their corresponding muscles keeps us balanced, stable, and propelling forward.

These transitions, along with shock absorption, contribute to the elegance of walking. Understanding joint coordination during these shifts lets us appreciate the intricacies of our walking patterns.

Gait involves an orchestrated movement of joints during different phases. By understanding the primary joint actions in each gait phase, we can fathom the mechanics behind our steps. The pelvis, hips, knees, ankles, and feet work in harmony for stability, shock absorption, and efficient motion. By comprehending these phases, we can stride with awareness, embracing the joint dance that allows us to walk gracefully and effortlessly.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Gait Phases

What are the different phases of the gait cycle?

The gait cycle comprises the stance phase and the swing phase, each playing a distinct role in the walking process.

Can you explain the phases of the gait pattern?

Certainly! The gait pattern consists of the stance phase, when the foot is on the ground, and the swing phase, when the foot is off the ground.

How do the phases of the gait cycle impact walking mechanics?

The gait cycle phases coordinate joint movements for balance, stability, and forward movement. The stance phase provides stability, shock absorption, and propulsion, while the swing phase ensures leg clearance and prepares for the next step.

Why is understanding the stance phase important in gait analysis?

The stance phase forms the majority of the gait cycle and influences balance, stability, and energy transfer during walking. It’s a critical focus in gait analysis for improvement.

What is the significance of the swing phase in walking?

The swing phase ensures the leg clears the ground and prepares for the next step. It involves coordinated movements of the hip, knee, ankle, and foot to create a smooth and efficient motion.

How do the phases of the gait cycle relate to everyday movements?

Understanding the gait cycle phases is fundamental to walking and many lower body movements. It helps us walk smoothly, maintain balance, and transition between steps in daily activities.

Can learning about the phases of the gait cycle help improve my walking technique?

Absolutely! Understanding gait phases empowers you to identify areas for improvement in your walking mechanics. Focusing on proper joint coordination, weight transfer, and balance can enhance your walking technique and reduce strain on your joints. If you want a 12-week program for reduced pain and symptoms and optimum foot health, try our Fit Feet Program, designed by clinicians and tailored to your feet. 

walking phases

Remember, grasping the concept of gait phases enriches your knowledge of how your body moves during walking, empowering you to make positive changes for better movement.

This article was written by Dr. Allison Riley

If you’d like to consult with her online you can book a Virtual Consultation here.

If you’d like to see her in person, you can find her in Boston at Stride Physical Therapy

Please note that the answers provided here are for informational purposes only and should not replace professional medical advice. It is essential to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan based on your specific condition.