What You Need to Know About the Phases of Gait: The Swing Phase

In the field of human performance, understanding how people move is vital. Here’s how it works, starting with the swing phase.

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The field of human performance involves the study of human movement, and the building blocks of human movement are the phases of gait.

Studying the way humans move their bodies—whether they are world-class athletes or average citizens—offers the potential to improve patient outcomes across the board. In the United States alone, there are over eight million sports and recreational injuries every year. We can advance human performance and significantly reduce injuries by refining our approach to walking and running, through the study of gait.

By developing a complete understanding of gait patterns—including what movement goes into each stage—healthcare providers can optimize movement, build effective treatment plans and boost quality of life for their patients.

The information below gives an in-depth look at the swing phase of gait.


Phases of Gait: Swing Phase

Human movement is easy to take for granted—the able-bodied tend to forget how incredible and complex it is. Taking a single step may seem quite simple; in reality, the biomechanics of that step—otherwise known as gait—is a remarkably detailed process.

Gait begins with the stance phase before transitioning to the swing phase, and swing phase is the set of movement processes that swing your leg into its next step.

The swing phase comprises approximately 40-50 percent of the gait cycle, and it contains three stages: initial swing, midswing and terminal swing. In simple terms, the swing phase involves the swing of your leg up in the air and then back down while you take a step. In more detail, it involves your foot clearing the ground, swinging the limb in the air and then preparing the leg to return back to the stance phase.

Understanding the swing phase is essential, as it provides the force to spur movement forward. By pushing your foot and leg off of the ground, the swing phase gives momentum to actually take a step.

 understanding phases of gait

Swing Phase: Initial Swing

The swing phase begins with preswing, which takes approximately 2 percent of the gait cycle, before transitioning to initial swing, which counts for 10 to 15 percent of the cycle. Initial swing is the beginning of the step, which takes place when the foot leaves the ground and the knee flexes. The hip, knee and ankle engage as the leg rises above the ground. During the initial swing stage, all weight falls to the weight-bearing supporting foot. 


Swing Phase: Midswing

The swing phase then moves into midswing, which takes 10 to 15 percent of the cycle. In midswing, the supporting leg remains on the ground, while the loading response of the stance phase helps to push the thigh and leg completely above the ground. When you visualize the act of taking a step, you’ll see midswing as the highest point of that step. In human gait, the loading response connects the swing and stance phases, enabling a person to take a full step. 


Swing Phase: Terminal Swing

The swing phase ends with a segment called terminal swing, which takes another 10 to 15 percent of the gait cycle, before reaching the terminal stance with double limb support back on the ground. Terminal swing sees the leg swinging back down, enabling the body to take another step. At the end of terminal swing, the heel strikes back to the ground and makes foot contact so the body can continue the gait cycle. Measuring the time between initial swing and terminal swing helps to determine walking speed.


XSENSOR: Technology for measuring gait

XSENSOR offers gait-measuring technology to help practitioners assess and analyze their patients’ gaits with accuracy, improving human performance and quality of life along with it.


By equipping you to assess the stance phase, the swing phase, and the entire gait cycle, our products are a valuable tool for optimizing your patients’ movement.

XSENSOR’s proprietary sensor technology outperforms industry-wide in both accuracy and detail. Our high-resolution sensors are designed specifically for gait measurement, withstanding the strenuous testing required to measure gait accurately. With our Pro Foot & Gait Software and easy-to-use tools, your gait analysis will be thorough—rich in both imagery and data.

For comprehensive gait measurement and analysis, nothing matters more than sensor resolution and accuracy. Ultra-thin sensors with insoles measuring at less than 2 mm, allow for virtually undetectable measurement when analyzing gait for both research and athletic performance. Our insoles themselves are proven to last, showing 5% or less full-scale error after 60,000 loading cycles. XSENSOR’s compact on-shoe electronics have integrated IMU and 7.5hr batteries life paired with onboard memory that can record the entire time at 150Hz.

At XSENSOR, we pride ourselves in offering dynamic sensing technology that maintains both flexibility and accuracy. Our industry-leading, gait-measuring products include:

This dynamic sensing technology will equip your lab or practice to gather and analyze gait data in a way that works for you, your providers, and most importantly—improves the wellbeing and performance of your clients. No matter which aspect of gait you’re focused on, XSENSOR technology provides exceptional data and science to help you meet your goals.

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