Having just delivered our gait analysis course in Warwickshire, I find myself thinking about conversations I have on a regular basis with running clients. So over the next few weeks I am going to do a series of blogs about running. Let's kick of with: Gait Analysis.
I honestly could not tell you the number of runners, both seasoned and beginners who over the years have come through the door with problems and have never had their gait checked. The most common reaction I get to questioning if gait has been analysed is, "it's just a way of shops selling me a more expensive shoe". I am happy to inform you that is not the case. This is then followed closely by "running is the most natural thing in the world'. Well, yes it is..... and no! We are literally born to run, those are the mechanics of our body. If an Alien was presented with a human skeleton they would conclude, from a mechanical perspective, that this creature was made to walk and run for tremendously protracted periods, upright and on two legs.
Why then does running produce so many injuries and why is gait analysis a genuine necessity? Well, that's simple.........modern life! Amongst other things we put our feet, the most perfect natural shock absorber and propulsion system, into shoes, which in-turn don't allow the foot to work correctly. By the time we reach adulthood, most people's feet are incapable of acting mechanically in the way they should. We then decide to start running, now putting up to five times our body weight through our feet and are puzzled when it all starts to go wrong. In an ideal world we would never wear shoes, however, in the western world we can't really do that, it would at the very least be seen as socially odd. Therefore, we have to accept our feet will not develop in an ideal manner and turn to the technology available, namely the many types of shoe on the market. I must emphasise here that there is no singular, correct running shoe, only the one that is right for you and only you. The most effective and economic way to find your shoe is with a gait analysis, which will find out how you currently run.
Most running shops now offer this and although shop analysis does tend to focus predominantly
on the foot and ankle relationship, it is still a good place to start. However, many other elements of modern life: sitting , driving, computers, phones and tablets, more sitting, all accumulate to throw out other natural balances within in the body. Commonly, the pelvis becomes tilted and unstable, shoulders protract, the head moves forward of the body's centre of mass and muscular firing patterns (the order in which muscles fire to produce specific movement) become confused. The result is pain and injury, from a supposedly 'natural' activity.
This is where a 'full' gait analysis, taking in the entire body mechanics, is extremely helpful. Because, not only can the feet affect the hips and upper body, but the way the upper body moves can affect the hips and feet, it works both ways! Every single runner who comes to us is injured in some way and therefore every single runner gets a gait analysis automatically. It's not long, it's not as complicated and it need not cost the earth. For us as biomechanists, it's just a small part of an ordinary consultation, we don't charge extra for this. Why would we? You have come to us to try to solve your running injury. This is part of our standard assessment and in almost all cases the missing link.
There are numerous elements to a gait analysis but one of the most basic elements we teach on our CPD course, is how to get a quick idea of somebody's gait by interpreting the wear pattern on the sole of their running shoe. I am going to blog about this next time to help you look at your own gait, but in the meantime why not send us a photo of your shoes and we'll send you some feedback on what we see.