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Gait Analysis

Categories: Biomechanics
Tags: running, Gait Analysis, Running Shoes

Recently my wife Hayley and I went to get her some trainers fitted at a local running shop in Nottingham. During the visit, I noticed some huge flaws in how their gait analysis was performed, which I’ll share with you in a moment. First, I’ll give you some background history on Hayley.

During my biomechanics training, I used Hayley as a guinea pig and I screened her on numerous occasions using the biomechanics testing techniques. One thing that became obvious was that she pronated (her foot falls in slightly) on her right foot whereas her left foot was neutral.

I knew that Hayley’s right foot had the potential to be neutral too if she put in the work to do the exercises I prescribed to help correct the pronation. During the biomechanics testing, it also became clear that Hayley’s hips were not functioning correctly. Or to be more movement specific, her abducting (outer) hip muscles were not activating properly when she was moving - jumping, running, walking etc. We were in the process of correcting this and her other biomechanical issues when we decided to run the Nottingham half marathon.

The biomechanics testing highlighted the need for some new running trainers and so we decided to pay a visit to the local running shop. During our visit, we viewed and discussed many pairs of shoes and then it came to the time to decide which footwear to test out. The assistant said that in order to make the best decision on which trainers to purchase, it would be best to have a “gait analysis test”. This was a video recording Hayley running from behind on a treadmill, which “sounds like a great idea”, I hear you say.

The problems that I noticed with the technique at this particular shop were the following:

Firstly, it was only a video of Hayley’s feet and ankles from behind. This is a good start, but I would be expecting in 2017 for a gait analysis test to at least be looking up to the knees, if not all the way up to the hips to do a thorough job. I personally believe it’s sensible to look at the whole body.

I was a little disillusioned by this and I got THE LOOK from Hayley as she could sense my frustration. The assistant informed Hayley that she pronates (to give her credit, I think she did say only on the right foot), so she recommended a trainer that would ‘fix /improve’ this issue. By this point my frustration was at its limit but I thought it best to stay quiet for the sake of my marriage!

The shoes brought out by the assistant had what is called an 8mm offset to them. What does this mean? It means that you effectively stick a wedge on the inside of your foot, which offsets the pronation to make you more neutral or level when running.

I felt at this point I had to intervene: “I see where you’re coming from but I don’t agree. I have a couple of questions for you.

“Firstly: Why has there been no thought into why this might be happening to the leg/foot in question? The wedge you are prescribing is NOT FIXING the issue; it is purely masking the problem, which will be sure to raise its head again at some point in the future.

“Secondly: What is this new shoe doing to the normal/neutral left foot? By adding a wedge, won’t this cause the neutral foot to supinate (fall outwards) instead?

“By offering this shoe, you are masking a problem on one side and creating a whole new problem on the other that didn’t even exist before we walked into the shop to buy the shoe!”

How would I approach this?

If a client came to me saying they were planning to buy new running shoes and asking for advice, I would highly recommend undergoing a full-body biomechanical assessment. I promise you it will find issues!

A biomechanics assessment takes about 90 minutes and involves a whole-body examination, including a gait analysis. As well as this, however, it also tests quadriceps dominance, hip strength, leg alignment, anterior or posterior tilts to the pelvis, leg length difference and hip mobility. And that’s just the tests for the lower limbs! In total, there are 27 tests for the whole body. By looking in such great detail, we are sure to identify the areas of the body where there is mechanical dysfunction that you wouldn’t have even been aware were causing a problem.

Sometimes, old injuries or medical conditions can cause pain and affect the way people walk or run. We can investigate these issues during the biomechanics assessment and look for ways to get you back to full fitness. If we find something during the assessment that’s not correctable with our usual treatment (strengthening exercises and sports massage, for example), I will point you in the direction of a specialist such as a podiatrist who can provide a custom-built orthotic insert.

After our disappointing experience at the sports shop, we unsurprisingly didn’t buy the running shoes with the offset and we chose instead to buy a neutral shoe, with our primary focus being to fix the underlying mechanical dysfunction causing Hayley’s foot to pronate.

If you want to find out how your body is functioning biomechanically, please get in touch or book an appointment online.

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