Gait analysis: is it for me?

Noel Thatcher discusses the ever changing world of gait analysis


by Noel Thatcher, MBE, British paralympic runner, Physiotherapist

Many running retailers and sports injury clinics now offer some form of gait analysis. This assessment of your running “style” or “technique” can take many forms and can range from someone watching you run down a corridor to the Run3D three-dimensional science and research based assessment we offer at Holly House Hospital.

The information gathered during these assessments is used to identify movement patterns, restrictions and weaknesses that may predispose you to injury and, to help shoe retailers and running injury specialist identify strategies, (footwear in the case of the former and, therapeutic intervention in the case of the latter) which will reduce your chances of injury in the pursuit of your running goals.

At first glance this seems simple but the truth of the matter is that there are many variables other than biomechanics that can lead to injury. Take, for instance training load, (the amount of running you do). We know that irrespective of your biomechanics, sudden increases in running volume, intensity or frequency, (or all three) significantly raise the likelihood that you will get crocked, which is why good coaching advice and monitoring of your recovery is so important. Similarly, nutrition and hydration have a huge influence on performance and recovery and need to be well managed if you are to remain injury free.

To further cloud the picture, there is an increasing amount of good quality research that has challenged some of our “models” of biomechanically induced running injury. Only in June this year, a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggested that the beelzebub of running biomechanics, the “Moderate Over-Pronator” may be less likely to get injured if running in a neutral shoe.

The interpretation of information gathered during a gait analysis is where the skill lies and this skill is directly related to the experience of the person interpreting the information. The data we collect at Run 3D Holly House is measured against the world’s largest database of 3D running biomechanics and our team’s decades of experience of all types of running and all levels of runner. We always combine gait analysis with an in-depth discussion of all aspects of your training as it is the load you apply to the body you have that we need to monitor and adjust to keep you running.

The value of gait analysis in my view, is as part of an overall assessment of you as a runner including discussion of your running background, training, background and goals.

Noel, Noel Thatcher Bio. 


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I went for gait analysis before spending a lot on road shoes. The shoes recommended gave me blisters and pain in my achilles. I then went to another shop who recommended completely different type of footwear and wow, they worked and I run faster, pain free and in comfort.


Posted: 07/10/2013 at 20:18

Likewise, I am dubious about gait analysis and the way it is used by retailers. When I had mine, I was recommended the most expensive shoes in the shop as they were, apparently, the only ones in my size that suited my gait, shoe shape, etc and custom insoles. The next week, a friend who is completely different size and build went into the same retailer and, as if by magic, were recommended exactly the same expensive shoes! Since then, as I cannot afford to spend £100 every time I need to replace my shoes, I have just bought shoes that feel comfortable and have not had any problems.


Posted: 08/10/2013 at 15:59

Noel,

Thanks for your post, I could not agree more. While gait analysis can be of great help to understanding movement patterns, it remains only a piece to the puzzle in preventing injury. Many runners look for the magic bullet in the form of a new shoe or a newly adapted running style, but the fundamental principles such as to "start low-go slow" or proper periodization should not be overlooked. 

Another issue facing gait analysis is standardization amongst labs and clinics. Some clinics are limited to 2D video analysis of gait, especially in the third –world context back here in South Africa where 3D equipment is expensive. We rely on our experience and “trained eye” to interpret 2D data which still seems primitive at times. It would be great if a normative database for a "normal healthy uninjured runner" is developed and one day becomes open source. 

Regards,

Kurt


Posted: 15/10/2013 at 13:55

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Nice post thanks for the infos !


Posted: 29/10/2013 at 19:04

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