The gastrocnemius medialis (GM) muscle plays an important role in stair negotiation. The aim of the study was to investigate the influence of cadence on GM muscle fascicle behaviour during stair ascent and descent. Ten male subjects (young adults) walked up and down a four-step staircase (with forceplates embedded in the steps) at three velocities (63, 88 and 116 steps/min). GM muscle fascicle length was measured using ultrasonography. In addition, kinematic and kinetic data of the lower legs, and GM electromyography (EMG) were measured. For both ascent and descent, the amount of fascicular shortening, shortening velocity, knee moment, ground reaction force and EMG activity increased monotonically with gait velocity. The ankle moment increased up to 88 steps/min where it reached a plateau. The lack of increase in ankle moment coinciding with further shortening of the fascicles can be explained by an increased shortening of the GM musculotendon complex (MTC), as calculated from the knee and ankle angle changes, between 88 and 116 steps/min only. For descent, the relative instant of maximum shortening, which occurred during touch down, was delayed at higher gait velocities, even to the extent that this event shifted from the double support to the single support phase. © 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.