Gaze behaviors of runners in a natural, urban running environment

Mark Cullen, Daniel Schmitt, Michael Granatosky, Christine Wall, Michael Platt, Roxanne Larsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Gaze-tracking techniques have advanced our understanding of visual attention and decision making during walking and athletic events, but little is known about how vision influences behavior during running over common, natural obstacles. This study tested hypotheses about whether runners regularly collect visual information and pre-plan obstacle clearance (feedforward control), make improvisational adjustments (online control), or some combination of both. In this study, the gaze profiles of 5 male and 5 female runners, fitted with a telemetric gaze-tracking device, were used to identify the frequency of fixations on an obstacle during a run. Overall, participants fixated on the obstacle 2.4 times during the run, with the last fixation occurring on average between 40% and 80% of the run, suggesting runners potentially shifted from a feedforward planning strategy to an online control strategy during the late portions of the running trial. A negative association was observed between runner velocity and average number of fixations. Consistent with previous studies on visual strategies used during walking, our results indicate that visual attentiveness is part of an important feedforward strategy for runners allowing them to safely approach an obstacle. Thus, visual obstacle attention is a key factor in the navigation of complex, natural landscapes while running.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0233158
Pages (from-to)1-14
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Cullen et al.


  • running
  • gaze
  • Vision
  • Fixation, Ocular/physiology
  • Walking/physiology
  • Humans
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Male
  • Attention/physiology
  • Running/physiology

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Journal Article


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