I've wondered about this for a while, without being able to come up with an answer.

Is there a body part that single-handedly determines the direction we're walking in? Is it a group of body parts that make us "steer" when walking?

I took a look at the behavior of some body parts while walking, and I came to the conclusion that:

  • it's not the direction the feet are pointed to, as you can turn them in or out while maintaining your path
  • it's not your head, of course, as you can be looking at any direction while maintaining your path
  • it's not your hips either, as you can move them freely without changing path (although I wouldn't suggest trying that in front of people)

As much as this sounds like a silly question, I still haven't been able to get to an answer. Any input is appreciated.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ the brain which coordinates movements determine directions. You will note you can move in any direction regardless of which way you are facing. Whichever direction your feet are producing the largest net force is the direction you will travel. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Mar 4, 2021 at 14:50
  • $\begingroup$ Are you asking what part of the body controls voluntary motion? $\endgroup$ Mar 4, 2021 at 16:22
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It's the center of mass of your whole body, projected onto the floor, in comparison to the position of your feet; the center of mass will fall away from your feet, especially from the line that can be drawn between your 2 feet. So walking can be seen as continuous falling. $\endgroup$
    – KaPy3141
    Mar 4, 2021 at 16:45
  • $\begingroup$ @KaPy3141: No, or more precisely, not necessarily. Though what you describe is an efficient way of walking, it's not the only way. Consider side-stepping (familiar if you're a cross-country skiier), walking backwards, or at a slow pace... $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Mar 4, 2021 at 21:24
  • $\begingroup$ I Agree with @John, the feet that is in the floor generate a force that is going to move your center of mass. The other leg movement is also important because wherever it poses is going to determine the displacement of that step. Of course the rest of the body should move accordingly to achieve balance. $\endgroup$
    – heracho
    Mar 4, 2021 at 21:27


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