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How to Reduce Parkinson’s Gait Issues

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is characterized by difficulties with walking and other common movements. Given the symptoms of this disease, it is no surprise that patients with PD develop what is known as “Parkinson’s gait.”

This guide to gait training exercises will explain more about what causes Parkinson’s gait, the symptoms that typify it, and what you can do to improve your gait if you have PD.


What is Parkinson’s Gait?

Parkinson’s gait is a particular gait that is common among patients with Parkinson’s disease.

What Causes Parkinson’s Gait?

The International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society explains that PD affects parts of the brain that control deliberate movements such as walking. As a result, the patient has less control over those movements, producing the characteristic gait.


Common Symptoms of Parkinson’s Gait

According to Parkinson’s Europe, features of the Parkinson’s gait include bradykinesia (slowed movements), a shorter stride, dragging, shuffling steps, a stooped posture with a lowered head and shoulders, a reduction in arm swing, stepping using the front parts of the feet, and bending at the knees and hips.

Not every patient with PD will exhibit all of these signs and symptoms. The gait may include all of these features, or just some of them. People with PD also may have a hard time initiating movements, or may freeze in the middle of walking. Turning can be challenging as well.

Balancing Issues

Walking with an unnatural gait combined with difficulties controlling motor functions can impact balance in people with PD.

Person balancing walking

Difficulties with balance in PD are both prevalent and debilitating. In fact, the Parkinson’s Foundation calls it the “most challenging of the major Parkinson’s disease (PD) movement symptoms.”

In a study that monitored patients with PD over a 6-month period, falls were recorded by 59%. Falling increases the chances of injuries.

As Parkinson’s disease is most commonly diagnosed in older patients, it can be one of the causes of elderly parents falling.

Problems Turning

Over half of people with PD have a hard time turning. As with loss of balance, difficulties turning can cause patients with this disease to fall, sometimes sustaining injuries.


How to Prevent Falls from Parkinson’s Gait?

To decrease the likelihood of falling from Parkinson’s gait, you should try to retrain your gait. An effective way you can do that is through regular, appropriate gait training exercises wearing the right shoes.

Exercises to Reduce Risk of Falling 

Below are some exercises the Parkinson’s Foundation says are recommended for people with PD.


1. Walking or running

Walking is one of the most basic exercises, doing the very activity you are working on improving. While you are walking (or running), be as mindful of your movements as you can. It is common for patients with PD to walk on the front parts of their feet; remind yourself to plant your heels before your toes.

Studies show that exercises like running may reduce mortality rates in PD patients.

2. Cycling

According to this research, riding a bicycle is a good way to improve your Parkinson’s walk, motor performance, and quality of life.

Young man biking in a field of yellow flowers

3. Dance

Dancing is another form of exercise that offers multiple benefits to people with PD. You can improve your balance, gait and quality of life by dancing.

4. Non-contact martial arts 

Martial arts and related disciplines such as tai chi and qi gong can lead to improvements in areas like balance and coordination, which in turn may assist with establishing a more natural gait and preventing falls. 

5. Yoga

According to a study in Behavioural Neurology, if you practice yoga with PD, you may improve your mobility, motor function and balance. Yoga can also help reduce anxiety and depression in people with PD.

6. Pilates

This study found that pilates may be more effective than “other conventional exercises” at improving lower body function in patients with PD.

Girl practicing the Updog Yoga Pose

7. Strength training

This review indicates that strength training can enhance physical parameters while also improving overall quality of life for patients with Parkinson’s disease.

8. Non-contact boxing

An effective workout that is recommended widely to patients with PD is non-contact boxing. This is a type of exercise that uses boxing moves, but does not involve fighting against an opponent. Practicing non-contact boxing can help improve your balance. It can also boost eye-hand coordination and confer other physical benefits as well.


Wear the Right Footwear

Choosing footwear that is suitable for walking with Parkinson’s can make a big difference for your gait training exercises.

Shoes that are poorly designed can increase your fatigue as you walk, increase issues with your Parkinson’s walk, and make it more likely you will fall.

Well-designed shoes, on the other hand, can stabilize your feet, help you move more naturally, and reduce your chances of falling and getting injured.

Woman is wearing Light blue adaptive shoes

Sizing Footwear for Parkinson’s

It is important to know that in Parkinson’s, the feet and ankles may sometimes swell. The chances of experiencing swelling increase if you are sedentary or you have slowed movements.

So, when you are selecting shoes for Parkinson’s, you will need to choose footwear that will be loose enough to accommodate your swelling, but snug enough to provide adequate support and stay on your feet.

In some cases, it may be easiest to purchase shoes in a couple of sizes. That way, you have the ideal size for when your feet are swelling and for when they are not.

Adaptive Footwear for Parkinson’s

As we discussed earlier, a gait where the toes drag along the ground or strike the ground before the heels can be common with Parkinson’s.

This Parkinson’s walk gait feature can make it challenging to safely clear obstacles, making it easy to trip and fall.

Thankfully, there are adaptive shoes on the market developed by specialists that can help you overcome this issue.

The Cadense Original Adaptive Shoes for men and women with patented variable friction technology adapt as you walk to uneven surfaces. That way, you can “glide” across obstacles, even if your gait does not allow you to fully lift your feet and drop your heels before your toes.

Once you have shoes that help you move easily and maintain your balance, you will find it easier to do exercises such as walking or running. You can then leverage the benefits of those exercises for improving your gait and maintaining your physical and psychological wellness.

As your gait improves and appropriate footwear helps you remain stable and upright, you also will be able to enjoy increased independence in your everyday life. Your mobility will be enhanced, and you will be able to do more everyday activities unassisted.

If you are ready to find shoes that help you walk comfortably and effectively, explore the full Cadense collection of shoes for Parkinson’s disease.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Let’s answer a few frequently asked questions about walking with Parkinson’s disease.


Is walking with Parkinson’s disease painful? 

It can be painful to walk with Parkinson’s disease. The Parkinson’s Foundation reports that up to 75% of PD patients experience musculoskeletal pain.

Most of the pain and stiffness of PD is generally concentrated in the spine, neck and arms. Walking doesn’t just involve the feet, however; it involves the torso, arms and shoulders as well. So, you may feel pain while walking, even if it is focused in your upper body.

Walking with an unnatural gait may also not always be ergonomic. This, too, could lead to musculoskeletal pain.

Additionally, around half of patients with PD experience muscle spasms called dystonia, frequently in the feet. Neuropathic pain affects about 30% of people with PD, and central pain afflicts about 10%. Any or all may be present while walking.

How long does it take to improve your Parkinson’s gait?

A study in the Journal of Neurologic Physical Therapy shows that gait performance can improve after 6-24 months of balance training and strength training.

So, it takes time to improve your Parkinson’s gait, and you will need to be patient and dedicated. If you stay the course, you give yourself the best chance of a more natural gait.

What are the primary recommended exercises for sufferers of Parkinson’s disease?

Some exercises recommended for people with Parkinson’s disease include cycling, running, dance, pilates, tai chi, yoga, qi gong, weight training, and non-contact boxing.

Is there a time of day when Parkinson’s walk gets worse?

Many patients with Parkinson’s say that their symptoms are more pronounced early in the morning or late in the evening. So, you might have a more difficult time with tasks such as walking during those times of day. 

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