Objective: To investigate the feasibility and the effects on gait of a high intensity task-oriented training, incorporating a high cardiovascular workload and large number of repetitions, in patients with subacute stroke, when compared to a low intensity physiotherapy-programme. Design and subjects: Randomized controlled clinical trial: Forty-four patients with stroke were recruited at 2 to 8 weeks after stroke onset. Measures: Maximal gait speed assessed with the 10-metre timed walking test (10MTWT), walking capacity assessed with the six-minute walk test (6MWT). Control of standing balance assessed with the Berg Balance Scale and the Functional Reach test. Group differences were analysed using a Mann-Whitney U-test. Results: Between-group analysis showed a statistically significant difference in favour of the high intensity task-oriented training in performance on the 10MTWT (Z = -2.13, P = 0.03) and the 6MWT (Z = -2.26, P = 0.02). No between-group difference were found for the Berg Balance Scale (Z = -0.07, P = 0.45) and the Functional Reach test (Z = -0.21, P = 0.84). Conclusion: A high-intensity task-oriented training programme designed to improve hemiplegic gait and physical fitness was feasible in the present study and the effectiveness exceeds a low intensity physiotherapy- programme in terms of gait speed and walking capacity in patients with subacute stroke. In a future study, it seems appropriate to additionally use measures to evaluate physical fitness and energy expenditure while walking. © 2010 The Author(s).