Outdoor walking exhibits peak ankle and knee flexion differences compared to fixed and adaptive-speed treadmills in older adults

Sheridan M. Parker, Jeremy Crenshaw, Nathaniel H. Hunt, Christopher Burcal, Brian A. Knarr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Walking mechanics recorded with a traditional treadmill may not be the same as the mechanics exhibited during activities of daily living due to constrained walking speeds. Adaptive-speed treadmills allow for unconstrained walking speeds similar to outdoor walking. The aim of this study was to determine differences in kinematic walking parameters of older adults between adaptive-speed treadmill (AST), fixed-speed treadmill (FST) and outdoor walking. We hypothesized that self-selected walking speed (SSWS) during AST walking and outdoor walking would increase compared to FST walking. Furthermore, we hypothesized that AST walking and outdoor walking would increase peak knee flexion, hip flexion, and ankle plantarflexion angles compared to FST walking independent of walking speed changes. Methods: Fourteen older adult participants were asked to complete 3 min of FST and AST walking on a split-belt treadmill. Participants were also asked to complete 6 min of outdoor walking following a circular route in a neighboring park. A wireless inertial measurement unit-based motion capture system was used to record lower extremity kinematics during all walking conditions. Results: The outdoor walking condition produces significantly higher SSWS compared to FST (p < 0.001) and AST (p = 0.02) conditions. A significantly faster SSWS was exhibited during the AST condition compared to the FST condition (p = 0.026). Significantly higher peak ankle plantarflexion angles are exhibited during the outdoor walking condition compared to the AST (p < 0.001, g = 1.14) and FST (p < 0.001, g = 1.13) conditions after accounting for walking speed. There was a significantly lowered difference between the outdoor walking condition and both AST (p = 0.029, g = 0.49) and FST (p = 0.013, g = 0.63) conditions in peak knee flexion angles after accounting for SSWS. There are no significant differences between outdoor, AST, and FST conditions on peak hip flexion angles. Older adults exhibit changes in peak ankle plantarflexion and peak knee flexion angles during outdoor walking compared to treadmill walking but not between treadmill controller types. We found no differences in the kinematics exhibited by older adults between both AST and FST walking. Conclusions: Incorporating unconstrained walking speed with the AST while maintaining similar FST sagittal plane kinematics may allow for more translatable conditional balance and walking rehabilitation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104
JournalBioMedical Engineering Online
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Adaptive-speed treadmill
  • Joint angles
  • Kinematics
  • Older adults
  • Walking speed

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


Dive into the research topics of 'Outdoor walking exhibits peak ankle and knee flexion differences compared to fixed and adaptive-speed treadmills in older adults'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this