At some point in time you’ve probably fallen up a step, and it’s always embarrassing — because it always feels like it’s your fault. Fans at Ohio State vs. Penn State found themselves in this predicament over the weekend thanks to a single step in Ohio Stadium.
This video is going viral because it’s fun to see people trip on the same stair over and over and over again. Each person runs into the exact same problem: They’re walking normally, and then they toe bash the front of the step, lose their footing, and seem a little confused by how this happened.
There might be more to the stair in Ohio Stadium than meets the eye, and the next time you fall up a step, it might not be your fault.
The Ohio State stair in the latest in a series.
It’s been two years since we had a viral example of a single stair tripping people up. Reading FC in England had this exact issue in 2015, when Madejski Stadium’s infamous “S Step” gained notoriety thanks to a Vine.
The clip, watched over 1.3 million times, shows an almost-identical problem to the one that fans ran into at Ohio Stadium. They tried to walk up the stairs as normal, and bashed their toes on a single step.
But the phenomenon isn’t isolated to stadium steps. It got so bad at the 36th Street subway station in Brooklyn that the stairs were completely rebuilt in 2012 after a video of people doing the same thing also went viral.
How does this happen?
It’s still unclear what the deal is with the stairs at Ohio Stadium and Madejski Stadium, but the 36th Street station’s infamous step measured a half-inch taller than the other steps in the flight. Even such small differences in height can mess with people’s muscle memory as they walk up the stairs, causing them to bash their toes into the lip rather than clear it.
In the U.S. there is a generally accepted standard stair size of 7-11, which means a 7-inch rise and an 11-inch run. However, not all stairs conform to this. Tour an old house or historical location and the stairs will feel weird, even rickety — all because of small variances in the stair sizes, which were made before these were standardized.
The homogenization of stairs has made access to buildings much easier, and with almost all stairs in the U.S. conforming to construction standards, our brains have become hard-wired to expect stairs to “feel” a certain way. When we get into the habit of climbing large staircases — say, like those found in a stadium — and then happen across one that is slightly taller than the rest, we trip. Especially when the variance is as little as a half an inch, which is imperceptible to the naked eye.
It’s possible the mis-measured step is just human error, however those human errors are built into the code. Stairs are allowed to have a 3/8th-inch variance from code (according to the MTA) to account for human error, but a half-inch mistake is big by any construction standards.
This problem is likely far more widespread than three locations in two countries. These are simply the examples that have been documented and gone viral as a result. You probably know a step you always have issues with, and know you know why. It’s not your fault.
If you’re a construction worker and you’ve heard of stairs being made the incorrect height intentionally or unintentionally, let us know.