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Gait Analysis – Can a Machine Tell You How You Run?

Running AnalysisIt is a very common question that we are often asked, ‘Do you do gait analysis?’ More recently, people have been anticipating that ‘a machine’ will be available to do this. So what is Gait analysis and can shoes correct things?

“Gait” – the way we walk or run, how someone carries themselves.
The motion of running or walking.

To ‘analyse’ is a detailed examination of something. It is not a cursory look-see at something. So it is not without reason that a gait analysis requires much knowledge and an understanding of what ‘correct gait’ would be.  Even using ‘machines’ and high speed cameras analysis by the operator is still required.

Human gait, walking or running, needs to be understood. There is a difference between the two. With humans there are always going to be anomalies and differences. Often a reason for the way we move is determined genetically – such as having one leg longer than the other.

Good running gait, is quite simply having good running technique.

Running technique, is something that good coaches correct all the time with their athletes.  If they see poor technique they set about correcting it with the athlete through Technique Drills, often coupled with Strength and Stability work.  It would be rare for them to send an athlete to a store for a corrective pair of running shoes.

To review someones running technique using cameras can be of great help. To do so the filming needs to take place from the side, behind and looking to the front of the runner.
To just and only film the knee and below really is an utter farce.  So you see a foot excessively rolling in – so called over pronation.  It could be caused by any number of things. Over striding, poor pelvic strength or stability, even hyper-mobility. If it is happening on one leg only you may need a physio or podiatrist to check leg length or to perhaps find out why. A longer leg often compensates by rolling inwards at the ankle.
In fact there is no medical evidence or guidance, in modern times, to suggest that over pronation is a bad thing.  Pronation, the inward rolling of the foot, is natures way of helping to absorb impact forces when we land.
So called over pronation shoes have been shown in some cases to actually increase the inward movement of the foot, whilst being detrimental to how the foot naturally absorbs shock.  Soft cushioned shoes can increase inward foot movement so negating their other benefits. So the shoe you are ‘analysed’ in is also just as important.

Pressure Plates that are supposed to tell us how we stand or run also require more than just a ‘Read Out’ to give the whole picture. The question is again ‘Why’ do we have this reading?’  What is influencing it?

Analysing Running Technique

Quite simply we are back to Running Technique. Is someone running tall, are they moving their arms from the shoulders and not rotating their bodies or are they landing in front of themselves?

Now, can a running shoe influence the way we move? Yes, it can. For example, we have seen over-striding individuals move better in a less complicated ‘neutral’ shoe. Runners with small feet coupled with a high drop shoe often find themselves overstriding as they have to reach past the higher heel area of the shoe. Lower the height of the heel in relation to the height of the forefoot and it can be like watching a completely different runner as they suddenly start landing midfoot and underneath the body.

So for Good Running Technique or Gait we are looking for:
1) Running tall, not leaning forward from the hips
2) Arms that move from the shoulders and not by twisting through the body
3) Feet that land underneath the body, either midfoot or with a nice roll from the heel.

A running shoe should be comfortable, fit the shape of your foot and importantly be something you want to run in. Comments such as ‘these are easy to run in’, or ‘this shoe feels nice and light’, are often positive reasons to buy a shoe. Yes, having someone check you running in the shoe is still a good idea as you don’t want to end up with a shoe that appears to affect you adversely.

Ultimately, being told how you run is one thing. Classifying yourself as a ‘type’ is not so helpful.
“I’m an over-pronator”; “Me, oh, definitely a supinator”; “I’m Ok as it’s neutral all the way”.The only label you need is that of ‘Runner’.
This day an age in terms of selecting shoes it should mean very little. Most of the big running speciality brands are moving away from so called support or over-pronation shoes. The level of so called support that is on-offer is becoming greatly reduced or changing dramatically to ensure a more natural movement as the foot lands and rolls.

So if you really are looking for a Gait Analysis we would recommend you do it properly and see someone who is trained and qualified to ‘Analyse’ your Gait, explain what is happening and talk you through the improvements you can make. This may be something that will relate to ongoing injuries. This is something that both Abbie Dagg and  Colin Papworth can offer at the Accelerate Performance Centre.

APC Gait Analysis   APC Run Technique

As to what we offer it really isn’t complicated.  All of the staff understand good running technique and what to look for. They are trained in-house by the APC Podiatrists and Coaches on what to do and look for and to offer suggestions that can help you move better. They are all experienced and have an understanding the impact running shoes can have on you. Yet most importantly they are there to try and find you a comfortable pair of shoes, ones that you tell us you would like to run in. Ultimately, we can only guide you through this process using our knowledge and experience to match your foot shape to a shoe and for you to tell us what is comfortable and easy to run in or not. We can’t do the running for you.

If you are looking to improve your running technique and movement patterns the
APC Move Better, Run Better Coached Session could be well worth investigating.

Other articles you may find helpful:

Foot Shape to Shoe Shape
Shoe Fitting: What to Do and Look For

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