Does walking in a virtual environment induce unstable gait?. An examination of vertical ground reaction forces

John H. Hollman, Robert H. Brey, Tami J. Bang, Kenton R. Kaufman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Virtual reality (VR) can induce postural instability in standing and walking, as quantified with kinematic parameters. This study examines the effect of a VR environment on kinetic gait parameters. Ten healthy volunteers walked on an instrumented treadmill in a VR environment and a non-VR environment. In the VR environment, a corridor with colored vertical stripes comprising the walls was projected onto a concave screen placed in front of the treadmill. The speed of the moving image was perceptually equivalent to the speed of the treadmill, creating an illusion that subjects walked through the corridor. Vertical ground reaction forces were sampled. Kinetic parameters that reflect gait stability (weight acceptance peak force, weight acceptance rate, push-off peak force and push-off rate) were compared between the VR and non-VR environments. Subjects walked in the VR environment with increased magnitudes and rates of weight acceptance force and with increased rates of push-off force. Variability in weight acceptance rates and peak forces, and variability in push-off peak forces, were also increased in the VR environment. The gait deviations reflect a compensatory response to visual stimulation that occurs in the VR environment, suggesting that walking in a VR environment may induce gait instability in healthy subjects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-294
Number of pages6
JournalGait and Posture
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2007


  • Gait stability
  • Ground reaction force
  • Locomotion
  • Treadmill
  • Virtual reality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Rehabilitation


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