Race walking has been theoretically described as a walking gait in which no flight time is allowed and high travelling speed, comparable to running (3.6–4.2 m s−1
), is achieved. The aim of this study was to mechanically understand such a “hybrid gait” by analysing the ground reaction forces (GRFs) generated in a wide range of race walking speeds, while comparing them to running and walking. Fifteen athletes race-walked on an instrumented walkway (4 m) and three-dimensional GRFs were recorded at 1000 Hz. Subjects were asked to performed three self-selected speeds corresponding to a low, medium and high speed. Peak forces increased with speeds and medio-lateral and braking peaks were higher than in walking and running, whereas the vertical peaks were higher than walking but lower than running. Vertical GRF traces showed two characteristic patterns: one resembling the “M-shape” of walking and the second characterised by a first peak and a subsequent plateau. These different patterns were not related to the athletes’ performance level. The analysis of the body centre of mass trajectory, which reaches its vertical minimum at mid-stance, showed that race walking should be considered a bouncing gait regardless of the presence or absence of a flight phase.
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