A running MOT: what is it and why do you need one?

Having a running gait test is always recommended, even when buying a new pair of shoes, it's common practice these days to hop on a treadmill and have a little run about before parting with some cash. Things are progressing though and a new wave of assessment that was once only available to pro athletes is now available to all runners if you're willing to pay. Ahead of his first marathon, Ed Cooper went to find out what a running MOT could tell him about the way he runs.


I — along with 40,254 other runners — crossed the finish line of the Virgin London Marathon this year, the hottest on the record and my first full-distance marathon, and it tested me in more ways than I could have ever imagined.

Having previously finished four half marathons, innumerable park-based 10Ks and countless half-assed 5K neighborhood slogs, my training up to the Virgin London Marathon start line had been both exhausting and exhilarating. From January 2nd (I didn’t fancy starting training on a hangover on January 1st) I resigned my life up to April 22nd to four runs a week alongside strength sessions and regimented stretching routines.

Related: 10 essential strength moves for preventing injury

Up to this point, I was already well aware I could run. I had medals hanging on my cupboard, lingering smelly kit and photos on Facebook to prove it. But I didn’t know how I was running. I knew to really get close my ideal time over 26.2 miles, it wasn’t going to be a matter of just showing up and putting one foot in front of the other (although, this was the case from mile 23 onwards), so instead I decided to take an in-depth look into my running technique.

With that in mind I visited HCA Healthcare physios based London Bridge Hospital to help identify any niggles or issues that could potentially hinder my marathon debut, whilst also gaining some much needed advice on how I was really running (from a bio-mechanical point of view).

The consultation with Emily Drakes, lead physiotherapist, started with an overview of running history, identifying any past or current pains and to make sure I was doing the right things going forwards.

A series of running-specific drills followed, starting with around 600m on the treadmill to identify my gait, cadence, impact and pronation. It then I discovered the truth that I had secretly known all along; I was far from perfect. My right foot overpronated considerably more than my left and even crossed my midline a few times. Bad news on a treadmill, but considerably more threatening on a race course. Thankfully, my cadence was ideal, to the tune of 175 steps a minute, with 170-180 still being considered optimum. First key learning; it was clear I needed to improve my training to suit my quite specific running style.

Related: 3 DIY gait retraining exercises

Moving on to strength tests, Drakes checked the flexibility and strength of my feet, spine, hips and knees, my plyometric ability — springiness, to the uninitiated — my squat depth and leg strength using a leg press.

Thankfully, I’m not one for skipping leg day, so I was comfortable leg-pressing my bodyweight (80kg, seeing as you asked) on a single leg and performing calf raises for 20+ reps. Plyometrics, however, weren’t my friend. I could hop 110cm on a single leg, but struggled to stick the landing due to poor balance in my feet, leading to my calf and achilles working in overtime, an issue which easily carries over to running.

All of which meant a few things. With a light, comfortable running style, I could progress through distances easily. But a lack of balance and control in my feet highlighted how I wasn’t running efficiently and was making my calves work harder than necessary. My prescription? First and foremost it was the below stretching and mobility routine:

Quadriceps Stretch 3 x 30s
2. Single leg stance: 3 x 30-60s
Unipodal Bosu ball stabilisation: 3 x 1min
Stabilisation lunge: 2 x 10
Strengthening plantar flex: To fatigue
Single foot hops 5 x 10

Though this routine was specific to my needs, why not give it a go in your next strength and conditioning session, it might help highlight some easy training wins you could make. 

Secondly, we talked trainers that would help with my running gait, but that side of things is far more specific to me so no recommendations there. 

After a few weeks of adding this into to training, all of which helped me cross the Virgin London Marathon finish line in a modest 4:07, a slower time than expected; but I’m more than happy to blame the scorching heat, because, frankly, no lab tests can prepare for you for British Summer Time.

Ed visited the London Bridge Hospital and took part in their running MOT package, which costs £120; more info can be found here.