Over the past century, various modern analogs have been used to infer the evolution of locomotor performance in stem tetrapods and their fish ancestors, with varying success. Here, we conduct a phylogenetic review of these modern analogs, from chondrichthyans to mammals, highlighting the broad spectrum of vertebrate clades and locomotor behaviors. The pros and cons behind utilizing modern analogs for the early stages of the transition from water to land also are discussed. In particular, it is noted that any hypothesis about locomotion not only must be supported by evidence from living animals but must also be consistent with character transformations in the fossil record. A "total-evidence" approach that emphasizes what extinct taxa could not do, rather than focusing on the specifics of how they functioned, is thus recommended. An example of this approach, which investigates mobility of the limb joints in modern semi-aquatic animals and in the Devonian stem tetrapod Ichthyostega, is detailed. We propose that various locomotion behaviors of modern quadrupeds can be ruled out for Ichthyostega, but that forelimb "crutching" motions, as seen in living mudskippers, may have been possible. The potential for movement in other known Devonian stem tetrapods is assessed through an anatomical comparison of limb joint morphology-and associated mobility-with Ichthyostega, and deemed to have been quite similar.