The effects of gait speed and step length on the required coefficient of friction (COF) confound the investigation of age-related differences in required COF. The goals of this study were to investigate whether age differences in required COF during self-selected gait persist when experimentally-controlling speed and step length, and to determine the independent effects of speed and step length on required COF. Ten young and 10 older healthy adults performed gait trials under five gait conditions: self-selected, slow and fast speeds without controlling step length, and slow and fast speeds while controlling step length. During self-selected gait, older adults walked with shorter step lengths and exhibited a lower required COF. Older adults also exhibited a lower required COF when walking at a controlled speed without controlling step length. When both age groups walked with the same speed and step length, no age difference in required COF was found. Thus, speed and step length can have a large influence on studies investigating age-related differences in required COF. It was also found that speed and step length have independent and opposite effects on required COF, with step length having a strong positive effect on required COF, and speed having a weaker negative effect.
Dennis E. Anderson is with the Center for Advanced Orthopaedic Studies at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA. Christopher T. Franck is with the Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Statistical Analysis in the Department of Statistics at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, VA. Michael L. Madigan is with the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Texas A&M University in College Station, TX.