Vaulting is a walking abnormality where someone will rise up on their toe to ensure their “swinging” leg clears the ground.  Under normal conditions, the swinging leg must “shorten” as it passes by the ground.  To “shorten” the leg the knee must bend and the foot must flex up. If the knee is unable to bend and/or lift the foot, the leg is technically too long to clear the ground. Vaulting is a way to adjust for this and not get the foot caught on the ground.  Vaulting is a very inefficient walking pattern that will undoubtedly cause early onset fatigue.

What causes a vaulting gait pattern?

As mentioned above, vaulting usually occurs in a subconscious attempt to get the body further away from the ground.  This is necessary if either the “swinging” leg knee will not bend, and/or the foot is pointed. There are several reasons why the knee will not bend and/or the foot may remain pointed through the swing phase of walking.

Spasticity in the foot

Spasticity in the foot is an involuntary pointing (downward). This is essence, makes the leg longer

Extensor Synergy Pattern

An extensor synergy pattern is an abnormal movement pattern that causes the hip knee to stay straight.

Drop foot

Drop foot is when the muscles that lift the foot are not working. Similar to a spastic ankle, the foot will stay pointed downward.

How do you stop vaulting?


Stretching the muscles that point the foot is essential to ensure that the foot can bend up and clear the ground. 

Movement Retraining

Movement retraining should focus on bending the knee

Unlearn a Bad “Habit”

Often times, the compensation of “vaulting” started in the early stages of recovery. This means that going up on the toe might be “engrained” in your brain and just needs to be “unlearned”.  The best way to unlearn this habit is to start practicing stepping by adding a little length to the uninvolved shoe. By doing this, you can clear the involved foot and the brain will be so eager to “resort to vaulting”. A shoe leveler is a great way to add a little length to the uninvolved side.

Deeper Dive into Vaulting

Here is a video that goes a little deeper and provides more treatment ideas


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