© 2018, The Author(s).Mediolateral stability during walking can be controlled by adjustment of foot placement. Reactive activity of gluteus medius (GM) is modulated during the gait cycle. However, the mechanisms behind the modulation are yet unclear. We measured reactive GM activity and kinematics in response to a mediolateral platform translation during different phases of the gait cycle. Forward simulations of perturbed walking were used to evaluate the isolated effect of the perturbation and the GM response on gait stability. We showed that the potential of GM to adjust lateral foot placement and prevent collisions during swing varies during the gait cycle and explains the observed modulation. The observed increase in stance, swing or combined GM activity causes an outward foot placement and therefore compensates for the loss of stability caused by a perturbation early in the gait cycle. GM activity of the swing leg in response to a platform translation late in the gait cycle counteracts foot placement, but prevents collision of the swing foot with the stance leg. This study provides insights in the neuromechanics of reactive control of gait stability and proposes a novel method to distinguish between the effect of perturbation force and reactive muscle activity on gait stability.