by Davy Kestens in Health + Nutrition

Gait analysis explained

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Well, put simply it is the study of the way a person walks or runs. You can go to most running shops these days and have your gait analysed to help you choose the right running shoes to help prevent injury. Gait analysis has been used by medical professionals for many chronic medical conditions with the aim of trying to make walking easier for those who had difficulty ambulating.

A health professional can use gait analysis for running shoe advice, and much more besides. There is a vast amount of academic research on human gait, and it is this evidence base that allows professionals to see if a person’s gait is the cause of a current injury or could lead to a future injury.

So, who should have their gait analysed?

To answer this question we have to consider what causes injuries to the tissues of the body, and sports injuries are most commonly associated with abnormal forces acting on muscles, tendons, ligaments or bones.  Basically, anyone who has high demands on their feet and legs, or those planning an increase or change in training would benefit from having their gait analysed.

  • Abnormal forces: Low level force but increased frequency (repetitive stresses)
    This could well be an increase in activity level such as taking up a sport or increasing training levels dramatically.
  • High level force single occurrence (i.e. ankle sprain)
  • Normal forces running through an abnormal joint (direction of force is not optimal)

Gait analysis should be concerned with what forces are running through the structures of the body, and for a sport such as running this will involve more than what is happening in the feet. The position of the knee, amount of hip flexion or tilt and obliquity and much more also need to be studied. For all of this to happen then the analysis needs to be from behind, in front, and at the sides of the person to create a complete picture. This can be best achieved whilst walking or running on a treadmill, so that fixed cameras can capture the motion which can be replayed in slow motion.

The feet however do play a key part in gait, being the things that are pounding the floor, and containing so many joints and muscles. Many runners will know about pronation, and may well have been told that they should wear shoes to control theirs. Pronation is a movement, and it is a movement that we need to adapt to the terrain underneath our feet. Excessive pronation can be the cause of many injuries, but it always needs to be considered alongside the other mechanics of the body.

How will gait analysis help then?

Gait analysis will only provide information, think of it as a survey of your current mechanics. It can identify why certain movements are happening and also allow a professional to see if your gait can be altered to reduce injury risk or serve as an aid to rehabilitation.

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