How a Gait Analysis Can Improve Your Running Performance

There is a common myth that having your gait analysed in store is simply a process a customer must go through before inevitably buying a pair of well-fitting running shoes and that is all a gait analysis is really used for.

Of course, if you’re looking to buy a pair of running shoes, then it does what it says on the tin and does help you get the right fit for your buck, but it’s not simply just a selling mechanism for footwear stores.

Instead, a gait analysis helps runners to learn valuable information on their gait and biomechanical problems that could transform the way you run for the better, keeping you safe from injuries and helping you maximise your performances across a variety of areas.

It provides a form of safety blanket that ensures that your choice of footwear is correct and specific to your bodies’ needs and running requirements, while also helping runners to understand their movement and what you need from your shoes to make you the best you can be.

What is a gait analysis?

A gait analysis is a biomechanical procedure that analyses your movement and helps you to understand the way you run or walk.

There are a number of various procedures to measure gait, from the wet footprint test to trying on a neutral shoe and giving it a test run on the treadmill, or frame-by-frame movement analysis.

Typically, specialist running shops will show you 3D images of your movement to allow for you to see the way you run. These are commonly used to identify the shoe most suited to your running style, as well as by physiotherapists to assist in rehabilitation.

How can a gait analysis help?

Improve your performance

A gait analysis helps to identify the way that you run, giving you the bedrock of information to help you to improve your performance.

The gait analysis will pinpoint biomechanical causes, compensations or running technique flaws contributing to your underperformance when running.

With that information, you will be given the necessary tools to help you learn what aspects of your running need to be addressed for more efficient performance, as well as helping you steer clear of injury.

Reduce injury rates

By analysing your running through 3D imaging, you can reduce the risk of injury by learning ways to run smarter and avoid potentially harmful movements.

In addition, the analysis can identify areas of compensation in your gait which create imbalances around the joints. With this information, you can address such imbalances and ensure that you’re moving correctly and safely.

For instance, if your larger prime movers such as hamstrings or glutes do not take a lot of the weight, then the smaller stabilising muscles compensate and do more of the work, increasing the chance of injuries.

Find the right running shoe

Professional running shops such as Runners Need and Run4It use gait analysis techniques to determine the most suitable running shoe for you.

This often involves testing different running shoes on a treadmill to identify your running style. This can be one of three types:

  • Overpronation — the most common pronation type where the foot rolls inward, putting weight on the inner edge of the foot rather than the ball
  • Underpronation — the outer edge of the foot touches the ground with little or no movement inwards, resulting in the transmission of shock through your lower leg
  • Neutral pronation — the foot touches the ground inwards, then rolls inwards, with equal weight distribution.

This footage is recorded in order to see your stride and foot movement from different angles. Whilst this analysis looks at your running style, it will not provide you with advice on how to run faster or how to improve your performance.

These appointments are usually free and take around 15 minutes, although it’s best to check what stores are open with current lockdown restrictions. In some cases, stores will be able to operate online gait analyses too, so be sure to have a look around.

Rehabilitation

Running labs are also useful for runners who are injured, through evaluation of techniques for pain-free running.

Gait analysis techniques are commonly used by physiotherapists to recommend exercises or orthotic equipment to aid recovery and get runners back on their feet and on the best form once more.

In particular, experts use motion analysis to focus on specific areas such as runner’s heel strike, knee and hip extension, pelvis rotation, arm and hip flex.

How often should you have a gait analysis?

Many different aspects can change over a short space of time, from the physical conditions of your body like your weight, muscle strength and injury conditions, to the number of miles covered in your shoes which, over time, can create wear and tear.

Therefore, it is generally recommend that it’s beneficial to have your gait analysed once per year, as your running style may change naturally the more you run.

How much does a professional gait analysis cost?

Many in-store gait analyses in running shoe stores will be free, and take around about 15 minutes — yet this isn’t nessecarily true for every store.

Particularly if you use a pro run lab, you should expect to be paying a far bit more than your average sports footwear store.

To give an example of costs, a gait analysis at The Run Lab costs £125 for a complete 3D analysis for improving performance or injury prevention.

The best piece of advice is to be sure to do your research on what type of gait analysis you wish to have completed before booking. That way, you won’t be overspending and will be getting the exact information you require to help you understanding your own running.

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