On this blog, we’ve talked about how carpet can be used as ateaching tool, and even as a way to detect when an elderlyor injured person is likely to fall. It seems carpet is being used more and more as an information-gathering device.

In a post titled Healthcare Flooring as a Rehabilitation Tool on her “Zooming In” blog, Sarah Norville Peinhardt, an interior designer with the architectural firm Gresham Smith and Partners, shows how flooring in some hospitals is being used by physical therapists to measure patients’ gait speeds.


“The flooring pattern in the facility’s corridors and gym area are designed to assist in gait training for patients, many of whom have suffered an injury or surgery that requires them to learn how to walk again. A person’s gait requires input from the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves and joints, along with a sufficient amount of muscular power and cardiovascular health. Because all of these systems are required to coordinate gait, gait speed is an indicator of the health of many physiological systems.

Therapists typically conduct gait training and walking recovery by assessing the patient’s gait quality, the distance walked and the amount of assistance needed. At HealthSouth, the flooring itself provides the distance markers needed for gait training. Each hallway features a specific repeated pattern that’s measured out in meters and matches up with the distances marked in most standard gait tests. Therapists don’t need a special area for the test; the corridor serves that function. Oftentimes, patients are not even aware their gait is being assessed, allowing for therapists to observe patients’ progress in more natural conditions.

We all know that the long hallways and endless wings of rehab facilities and hospitals are tiring enough for visitors, let alone patients. Since the corridors at HealthSouth function as a therapy tool, none of the steps taken by patients throughout the day are wasted. Their travel time is part of their therapy, and each walk down the hall gets the patient that much closer to achieving their rehabilitation goals. Additionally, the differing floor patterns throughout the facility serve as an effective wayfinding  tool, so the corridors are essentially serving three purposes – circulation, wayfinding and rehabilitation.”