Given a sequence of n real numbers {Si}i⩽n, we consider the longest weakly increasing subsequence, namely i1 < i2 < . . . < iL with Sik ⩽ Sik+1 and L maximal. When the elements Si are i.i.d. uniform random variables, Vershik and Kerov, and Logan and Shepp proved that ${\mathbb E} L=(2+o(1)) \sqrt{n}$.
We consider the case when {Si}i⩽n is a random walk on ℝ with increments of mean zero and finite (positive) variance. In this case, it is well known (e.g., using record times) that the length of the longest increasing subsequence satisfies ${\mathbb E} L\geq c\sqrt{n}$. Our main result is an upper bound ${\mathbb E} L\leq n^{1/2 + o(1)}$, establishing the leading asymptotic behavior. If {Si}i⩽n is a simple random walk on ℤ, we improve the lower bound by showing that ${\mathbb E} L \geq c\sqrt{n} \log{n}$.
We also show that if {Si} is a simple random walk in ℤ2, then there is a subsequence of {Si}i⩽n of expected length at least cn1/3 that is increasing in each coordinate. The above one-dimensional result yields an upper bound of n1/2+o(1). The problem of determining the correct exponent remains open.