Plantarflexor strength, gait speed, and step length change in individuals with Parkinson's disease

Staci M Shearin, Ann Medley, Elaine Trudelle-Jackson, Chad Swank, Ross Querry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Parkinson's disease affects the ability to walk often resulting in decreased independence and low quality of life. The purpose of this study was to examine differences in plantarflexor strength (PFS), gait speed, and step length in persons with Parkinson's disease (PwP) and healthy peers using clinical measures. A secondary purpose was to examine the relationship between these gait components across disease severity. The study was a convenience sample of 71 PwP and 25 community healthy peers. Outcome measures included 10-Meter Walk, step length, and Calf-Raise Senior Test. PwP were separated into mild and moderate impairment groups using the Movement Disorders Society United Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale Motor Subscale. Between group differences for gait speed (F2,93= 24.560, P = 0.000), step length (F2,93= 21.93, P = 0.000) and PFS (F2,93= 19.49, P < 0.000) were observed. Post hoc testing determined a difference (P < 0.00) in gait speed, step length, and PFS testing between moderate impairment versus healthy peers and mild impairment. A difference (P = 0.045) in step length and a trend towards significance (P = 0.064) for PFS was found between healthy peers and mild impairment group. This study revealed that PwP with mild impairment also have significant changes in step length and trends toward plantarflexor weakness without a significant difference in gait speed. These early changes may warrant early assessment and intervention to prevent decline. This study may bring clinical focus onto the plantarflexor and step length for early comprehensive assessment and treatment of gait and mobility for PwP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)82-87
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Rehabilitation Research
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Parkinson's disease
  • gait speed
  • muscle strength
  • plantarflexion strength

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


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