How to Use the 30-Second Walk Test (30sWT)

Walking from class to the school library, Josh falls to the back of the line.   Shortly thereafter, a gap forms between Josh and the rest of his class.  He is last to arrive and gets the half-functioning computer that everyone else avoids.   As his PT,  you are there to observe, problem-solve and treat.   The computer lab is a half-minute walk from class.    His concerned teacher asks, “Has he always had this difficulty?  Is his walking speed typical for this age?”  Do you have an answer for this question?

30sWT Quick Facts:

  • Age 5-17
  • natural environment
  • walking at natural pace

Josh’s slow walking speed was a major concern at the beginning of the school year.  At that time, the thirty-second walk test (30sWT) result was clear; he was below the 5th percentile for boys his age and off the low-end of the chart.   But as of right now, his time has improved because he has better propulsion and a more efficient gait.

The thirty-second walk test (30sWT) is a standardized test that evaluates a child’s comfortable walking speed in their natural environment.  Norms have been created for boys and girls aged 5 to 17.  The original 1999 study  looked at walking speeds of children aged 6 to 13.  Norms were then expanded to include 5 to 17-year-olds on a second study by the same author in 2009 .    There are many places that require just 30 seconds of walking:  house to curb, classroom to classroom, classroom to cafeteria etc.  The short time frame of 30 seconds avoids the influence of fatigue.   Thirty-second walk test results will clarify whether the child is slower than their peers and provides a percentile rank for age.

Secondarily, the 30sWT can be used to show maturation changes or improvements in walking speed as a result of intervention.  This is important because a child may be slower than their peers, but also faster than they were in the past.  You can objectively report the positive changes and celebrate.  Perhaps  in the meantime, Josh can get a 30-second head start going to the computer lab from his classroom.

The 30sWT requires only a timer and a way of measuring the distance covered in 30 seconds.  It assumes the child is wearing a functional pair of shoes and the terrain is in a natural environment.  The studies did laps around two cones in a gymnasium, but really it’s any distance you can cover at a regular walking pace.  At the end of the retesting session today you have great news, Josh is now between the 5th and 10th percentile!

  • JOSH:  Age 7.   7-14-2017  30sWT:  95.2′  <5th percentile for age
  • JOSH:  Age 7.   11-17-2017 30sWT: 117.2′  Between 5th and 10th percentile for age.
  • Norms for boys age 7:   152.9′ +/- 15.4 ‘

There is an interesting aspect to the data and that is that walking speed decreases at age 11 and continues to decrease through age 17.  Yes, 10-year-olds choose the fastest walking pace in childhood.  This is reassuring if you notice that your child’s natural walking speed slows after age 10.

When filling out the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF), which category does 30sWT data belong in?  


  1. Standard Task Measurement for Mobility: Thirty-Second Walk Test. Knutson, Loretta M. PhD, PT, PCS; Schimmel, Patricia Ann DPT, MBA; Ruff, Andrew PT. Pediatric Physical Therapy: Winter 1999
  2. Age Expansion of the Thirty-Second Walk Test Norms for Children.  Knutson, Loretta M. PT, PhD, PCS; Bushman, Barbara PhD, FACSM; Young, Janice Clark EdD, CHES; Ward, Gary PT, ATC. Pediatric Physical Therapy: Fall 2009 – Volume 21 – Issue 3 – pp 235-243. (Contains distances for age, percentile chart on full version pdf)

Author: spritelypt

Pediatric physical therapist

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: