The U-shaped net cost of transport (COT) curve of walking has helped scientists understand the biomechanical basis that underlies energy minimization during walking. However, to produce an individual's net COT curve, data must be analyzed during periods of steady-rate metabolism. Traditionally, studies analyze the last few minutes of a 6–10 min trial, assuming that steady-rate metabolism has been achieved. Yet, it is possible that an individual achieves steady rates of metabolism much earlier. However, there is no consensus on how to objectively quantify steady-rate metabolism across a range of walking speeds. Therefore, we developed a simple slope method to determine the minimum time needed for humans to achieve steady rates of metabolism across slow to fast walking speeds. We hypothesized that a shorter time window could be used to produce a net COT curve that is comparable to the net COT curve created using traditional methods. We analyzed metabolic data from 21 subjects who completed several 7 min walking trials ranging from 0.50 to 2.00 m s−1. We partitioned the metabolic data for each trial into moving 1, 2 and 3 min intervals and calculated their slopes. We statistically compared these slope values with values derived from the last 3 min of the 7 min trial, our ‘gold’ standard comparison. We found that a minimum of 2 min is required to achieve steady-rate metabolism and that data from 2–4 min yields a net COT curve that is not statistically different from the one derived from experimental protocols that are generally accepted in the field.

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