Why Tall People Naturally Walk Faster


It’s obvious that tall people tend to walk faster. The common explanation is that we tall people have longer legs. But this doesn’t take into account the dynamics of it, only the statics. Perhaps the best way to really appreciate how height affects walking speed is to consider the pendulum analogy. The height and walking speed calculator below is based on this. Following it is an explanation.

Inputs

Gender: male female
Units: imperial metric
Height:

Walking and Sprinting Speed

Relative Speed:


Grandfather Clock Pendulum Analogy for Walking Speed

A pendulum in a grandfather clock is a good analogy for a leg during walking. It swings at a constant rate, allowing the clock to keep accurate time. This is its natural frequency. If you find the clock isn’t keeping time accurately, all you have to do is adjust the length of the pendulum arm. For example, if you increase it, the rate decreases. But because it is now longer, the tip actually reaches a higher velocity. Likewise, we tall people, with our longer legs, naturally walk with a slower cadence but at a faster pace.

Tall People Walk Faster

Tall peoples’ natural ability to walk faster is also apparent when you look at it from an energy standpoint. In one study, researchers found that, relative to body mass, tall people use the same amount of energy per stride as their shorter counterparts.1 Simply put, tall people are naturally more efficient walkers, allowing us to travel further and faster.

Of course, there is a lot more to walking speed than just stature. For instance, various other anatomical variations as well as age and physical fitness certainly play a role. But the fact remains that we tall people in general are naturally faster walkers.

Sadly, our ability to walk faster does diminish with age.2 This fact is probably a consequence of our lesser extent of evolutionary adaptation. I suppose that’s just one of the trade-offs.

1. The mass-specific energy cost of human walking is set by stature
2. The gait speed advantage of taller stature is lost with age

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