Late Quaternary shortening along the length of the Western Foothills of Taiwan highlights the tectonic segmentation of the foreland and raises questions about the relationship between erosion and the thickness of synorogenic foreland basin fill, and their influence on thrust kinematics. We compare measurements of shortening with geodetic observations and numerical model results, and relate these to regional topography. Predictions of shortening from numerical modeling and observed strain gradients within central Taiwan are generally similar in terms of their scaling and kinematic behavior. Within this framework, the current deformation field is likely related to the inheritance of older passive-margin structures in the foreland, as well as to the easily erodible nature of the 5-km-thick sequence of synorogenic sediment accreted at the leading edge of the orogen in the last 1.1 m.y. Additionally, available constraints on the timing of recent activity of faults suggest that infilling of piggy-back or wedge-top basins there occurred rapidly, contemporaneously with the activation of the frontal thrust and a possible increase in the rate of shortening across the adjacent thrust sheet toward the center of the orogen.