The study of human gait has expanded and diversified to the extent that it is now possible to identify a substantive literature concerning a variety of gait tasks, such as gait initiation [Halliday SE, Winter DA, Frank JS, Patla AE, Prince F. The initiation of gait in young, elderly, and Parkinson's disease subjects. Gait Posture 1998;8:8–14; Mickelborough J, van der Linden ML, Tallis RC, Ennos AR. Muscle activity during gait initiation in normal elderly people. Gait Posture 2004;19:50–57], stepping over and across obstacles [Patla AE, Prentice SD, Robinson C, Newfold J. Visual control of locomotion: strategies for changing direction and for going over obstacles. J Exp Psych 1991;17:603–34; Chen, HC, Ashton-Miller JA, Alexander NB, Schultz AB. Effect of age and available response time on ability to step over an obstacle. J Gerontol 1994;49:227–33; Sparrow WA, Shinkfield AJ, Chow S, Begg RK. Gait characteristics in stepping over obstacles. Hum Mov Sci 1996;15:605–22; Begg RK, Sparrow WA, Lythgo ND. Time-domain analysis of foot–ground reaction forces in negotiating obstacles. Gait Posture 1998;7:99–109; Patla AE, Rietdyk S. Visual control of limb trajectory over obstacles during locomotion: effect of obstacle height and width. Gait Posture 1993;1:45–60] negotiating raised surfaces such as curbs and stairs [Begg RK, Sparrow WA. Gait characteristics of young and older individuals negotiating a raised surface: implications for the prevention of falls. J Gerontol Med Sci 2000;55A:147–54; Mcfayden BJ, Winter DA. An integrated biomechanical analysis of normal stair ascent and descent. J Biomech 1988;21:733–44]. In addition, increasing research interest in age-related declines in gait that might predispose individuals to falls has engendered a very extensive literature concerning ageing effects on gait. While rapid locomotor adjustments are common in the course of daily activities there has been no previous review of the findings concerning gait adaptations when walking is terminated both rapidly and unexpectedly. The aims of this review were first, to summarise the key research findings and methodological considerations from studies of termination. The second aim was to demonstrate the effects of ageing and gait pathologies on termination with respect to the regulation of step characteristics, lower-limb muscle activation patterns and foot–ground reaction forces.