How Runners Can Benefit from Gait Analysis
21st November 2016. When you decided to take up running for sport or fitness, did you stop to think about how you run? Or did you just lace up a pair of running shoes and go out for a jog? Chances are, like most of us, you did the latter. After all, what could be so difficult about running? It's just a faster form of your natural movements, right? While that's true, the way you run can have a significant impact on your body. That's where gait analysis can be so helpful for both runners just learning the ropes and veterans who put in many miles a day. While gait analysis is sometimes used as a gimmick in shoe stores to push products, the reality is that it's a closer, scientific look at your body. It's a method for examining the "biomechanics" of your movement. After examination, it's easier to break down exactly how your whole body responds to movement. Believe it or not, this information can be of immense value to runners. From preventing injury to improving ability and even your comfort level while running, it's something worth a closer look. Let's begin by digging into what exactly gait analysis is before discussing how it can benefit you.
How does gait analysis work?
In its most basic form, a specialist with the proper training can just watch the way you walk or jog. In other cases, you might visit a doctor, like a physiotherapist, to spend a few minutes on a treadmill. A camera may tape your performance or record it digitally onto a computer. This first step is all about gathering information about your gait. That is, the analyser will look at the way your feet hit the ground, how you carry yourself as you run, and more. In other words, we're looking at the biomechanics of your body. Everyone moves differently based on many different factors, so there's no "one size fits all" approach. All this collected information is used to create a profile of your movements. There are many individual points of motion your specialist may want to examine. These points include the way your feet contact the ground, how you push off during a stride, and more. It's not all about how your feet and legs work together, either. Gait analysis also looks at how you compensate for movement as well as how you carry your head while running. Once all this information is analysed, you'll be able to learn about what you're doing right ? and all the many ways you can improve. Even seasoned athletes compensate without thinking about it; over time, this can create a real potential for injury. A complete gait analysis gives you a window into the ways you need to improve your running form. At that point, you can take action. However, this type of analysis can benefit beginners and veterans somewhat differently. It's all about how you use the information.
What beginners can get out of analysing their gait
For individuals just beginning to run, it may seem like gait analysis is something more suited to the seasoned runner. After all, it may seem like quite a lot to do just to learn how you run. However, therein lies the point: why not start with better form now rather than try to improve it later? Undertaking gait analysis early on can enable beginners to avoid ingraining bad habits into their routine. For example, running with your head in too much of a forward position can cause significant pain issues over time. This is a likely problem for a beginner to encounter. It doesn't seem immediately obvious that you must control the position of your head while running. When you do, though, you can substantially reduce the strain you feel while running. Is your running stride far too long? An analysis will let you know. If you're overextending your feet beyond your body's centre of mass, you amplify the shock of hitting the ground during running. Thus, your knees and other joints must endure more punishment on a regular basis. By noticing this early on through gait analysis, you can take steps to correct your stride. Once you find the right form, you may realise running isn't as uncomfortable as you thought! These are just a few of the potential beneficial corrections you can make as a beginner. Gait analysis will also help you to uncover the right kind of running footwear to use. Over time, this can also contribute to preventing injury and keep you more comfortable on the run.
Even seasoned runners benefit as well
We mentioned that beginners aren't the only ones who see positive results from gait analysis. So what about everyone who already runs multiple times a week? For starters, experienced athletes aren't immune to fundamental problems like head positioning and over-striding. Gait analysis can help you to identify these problems. However, perhaps you're already experiencing some painful issues related to running. If so ? or if you just really hope to avoid injury ? going through with a gait analysis can help you recognise other issues. Just like with the beginners, this information will affect the corrective actions you can take. Consider the case of pronation ? that is, the way your foot moves as you absorb the force of hitting the ground. Many serious runners tend to overpronate, leading to excessive strain on bones, joints, and tendons. The result is often one of an array of painful conditions like tendinitis. A gait analysis can help you to identify whether this is a habit for you. Afterwards, a physiotherapist can assist you in creating exercise plans to train your body to avoid overpronation. Professional analyses also identify many potential underlying issues, such as potential bone weaknesses. Though such serious problems may not be present for most people, it's important to know you have a way to recognise them. In every case, veteran runners can benefit from seeing how to reduce their chance of injury over the long term or working to eliminate pain in the shorter term.
Putting what you learn into practice
So, you've taken the time to submit to a gait analysis. You've run on a treadmill or jogged in place, and soon you'll have your results. What can you do once you learn more about how your body moves during running? First, listen to any of the advice given by the provider of your analysis. This is where help from a real specialist, like a physiotherapist, can come in handy. A medical professional familiar with biomechanics can help you learn about exercises to fix the problems. These might be exercises to change your running form or to alter how you carry your body during movement. Changing up your running shoes or purchasing orthotic inserts can also help, especially for beginners. Take the time to learn which shoes fit your feet best. You should feel comfortable but also supported. While an in-store gait analysis isn't going to help you avoid injury, it can help you to find the right kind of shoe. If necessary, speak to a podiatrist or other doctor about how to best support your foot during running. They should be able to point you in the direction of a comfortable shoe insert. For veteran runners, this may be worth considering as well. However, overall, focusing on corrective action for biomechanical problems is the best possible way to use gait analysis, as it helps to make sure we take care to stay in good shape, and free from injury!
Don't neglect the importance of proper running form
Just like a swimmer takes the time to refine their strokes and a golfer hones their swing, runners must remember the importance of their gait. The biomechanical impact on your body can and does add up over time. By taking full advantage of gait analysis, you can mitigate some of the risks of injury. At the same time, you stand an excellent chance to improve your overall comfort level while running. Not only does this make the sport much more enjoyable, but it could enable you to run for farther or longer than before. Gait analysis is just another one of the remarkable ways that science, exercise, and fitness all go hand in hand. What could it do for you? Follow @SportNessUK