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wundayatta's avatar

What is the difference between male and female stride lengths, and why?

Asked by wundayatta (58625points) June 27th, 2012

Based on your own observations (you can back it up with data, if you want, but first state your own sense of what you see), what do you think is the relationship between male and female stride lengths, on average?

If there is a difference, how do you account for that difference? Is it physical? Social? A combination? What physical and/or social factors might explain any difference?

If there is a difference, does it make men or women walk any slower or faster than the other gender? Why or why not?

How would you characterize any other gender differences in walking that you have noticed?

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7 Answers

Sunny2's avatar

Doesn’t it have something to do with the length of legs and difference in hip structure? A woman’s pelvis is constructed to bear pregnancies. It may also be for social reasons in women, to attract men with the way they walk. And I know some women who have a much longer stride than some men. I don’t think it’s strictly a male/female thing.
When I was a teen alone walking home at night after a church group meeting in Chicago, I was afraid of crossing dark alleys. I’d shift my weight forward and increase my stride to sound more like a man approaching the alley, then run like hell when I was past the alley.

thorninmud's avatar

Well, here’s a wonky bio-mechanical answer from my own observation:

On average, women seem to maintain a more lordotic (forward curve) posture in the lumbar spine. This may be a subconscious effort to accentuate the bust and butt, since both protrude more in this posture. But this also tilts the pelvis forward, and that makes it harder to reach far out in front with the step because of the limitation imposed by the hamstrings. You can’t compensate for this by extending the step farther in the back, because this posture also shifts the center of gravity forward, and you’d end up toppling forward.

Guys are more likely to tilt the pelvis rearward (again, maybe in a subconscious effort to get his junk out there). this facilitates a long forward reach of the stride, and shifts the CG back so the rear foot can extend way back too.

I have no idea whether statistics back this up or not.

wundayatta's avatar

Interesting observations, both of you. I was watching this morning while eating my breakfast, and I noticed that women seem to have a shortened step more often. Now my observation could be related to yours, @thorninmud, because I noticed that women generally did not straighten their legs at the knee fully. They had shortened steps, perhaps because of what you noticed. Perhaps they had no time to fully straighten their legs and had to put their feet down sooner, thus shortening their strides.

By no means every woman did this, but enough that it was noticeably different. Men, standing straighter, have time to straighten their legs.

Oddly, though, it seemed to me that men and women walk equally fast, despite stride length. And it doesn’t appear that women are walking faster—i.e., they don’t appear to be taking more steps per distance even though they are. I did do a little research, and while there is a lot of information out there, I couldn’t find anything on point. Nothing about knees and whatnot. I’m sure it’s out there, but I couldn’t find it. The one thing I did find suggested that men and women walk at the same speed, no matter what stride length is. I find that strange.

JLeslie's avatar

@wundayatta Did you notice if the women were in heels or not? My first thought when I saw your question was the length of the person’s legs. Women generally having shorter legs, so a shorter stride. Then I also thought about how I put my feet in front of the center of me as I step out, especially while wearing heels, and I doubt men do that, they probably put their feet out directly in front of that side of their body they are stepping with. Probably one can get a longer stride when putting their leg out directly in front of that side of their body.

I did not competely understand @thorninmud description, but it seems to me he is saying women tend to stand sway backed? I think that is true of a lot of women, and I think it looks terrible. I seems to be actually trendy now compared to the past to stand that way, at least in America. It also seems to be more prevalent among certain ethnicities, even as a true physical, genetic, difference. Heels kind of force this positition a little, the higher the heel also the less a woman bends her knee when she walks, kind of walking on her toes.

Part of how we stand and walk is picked up by the people around us. How our “group” walks. Not only gender, but where we live. My mom’s stride is probably longer and faster than many of my neighbors, she has that fast NYC walk. Some men seem to sort of swagger, not moving forward as fast as other men.

gailcalled's avatar

Leg length enters into the equation. My sister is very tall, high-waisted and therefore long-legged. She takes a very long stride, as does my 5’11” female friend.

downtide's avatar

Wearing high heels will shorten your stride because you’re effectively putting your foot down toe-first (or heel and toe together). Try doing that without shoes on – you’ll see how much difference it makes to stride length.

hearkat's avatar

Physical proportions are the primary factor. Footwear is the next, but clothing styles also make a difference. I used to have skirts that were tight to the knee then flared out (I love that style) but they were hard to walk in. You’ll also notice that the males who wear their pants below the butt have a different stride than those whose belts are around their hips.

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