BACKGROUND Although short-leg walkers are often used in the treatment of lower extremity injuries (ankle and foot fractures and severe ankle sprains), little is known about the effect the short-leg walker on gait characteristics. The purpose was to examine how heel height modifications in different short-leg walkers and shoe side may affect ground reaction forces in walking. METHODS Force platforms were used to collect ground reaction force data on 10 healthy participants. Five trials were performed in each of six conditions: lab shoes, gait walker, gait walker with heel insert on shoe side, gait walker modified with insert on walker side, equalizer walker, and equalizer walker with heel insert on shoe side. Conditions were randomized and walking speed was standardized between conditions. A 2x6 (sidexcondition) repeated analysis of variance was used on selected ground reaction force variables (P<0.05). FINDINGS The application of a walker created peak vertical and anteroposterior ground reaction forces prior to the normal peaks associated with the loading response. Wearing a walker introduced an elevated minimum vertical ground reaction force in all conditions except the equalizer walker when compared to shoe on the shoe side. Peak propulsive anteroposterior ground reaction forces were smaller in all walker conditions compared to shoe on walker side. INTERPRETATION The application of heel insert in gait walker with heel insert (on shoe side) and gait walker modified (on walker side) does not diminish the minimum vertical ground reaction force as hypothesized. Wearing a walker decreases the peak propulsive anteroposterior ground reaction force on the walker side and induces asymmetrical loading.