If you have ever paid a visit to a high-end athletic footwear store you were probably offered a gait analysis by one of the store employees. If you agreed to have the gait analysis performed you were probably told to jog in place while the staff member watched you run. After running for all of thirty seconds the store employee will typically point out his perceived flaws in how your foot meets the ground as you run and then recommend shoes that are designed to correct the problem he believes you have. You walk out of the store with a new pair of running shoes that somewhat force your feet to touch the ground the right way. While not always bad, this is not a true version of what a gait analysis should be.
What the Observer Will Be Looking For
True gait analysis is not a generic jog-in-place exercise; it’s an advanced study of how you move. To get a thorough gait analysis, the the observer should be a professionally certified pedorthist or sports doctor, not just a salesman at a shoe store. The results from the study will give you better insight into how you walk and run. Compensation patterns are one of the major factors the administrator will be checking for as you exercise in front of him. Your body can sometimes get into a habit of compensating when there is a problem with joint mobility. In doing so, your body finds an unnatural way to move to get around the mobility issues of a certain joint. The examiner will also be able to show you where your center of gravity is while you walk, what part of your foot feels the most impact while you are running, and how your upper body reacts to your moving habits.
How the Analysis Is Performed
The administrator will want to watch you walk and run in and out of your shoes. You’ll want to wear whatever pair of athletic shoes you typically use while running or bring them along to the facility where the gait analysis is being conducted. He will examine your feet and your posture as you run as well as when you are standing still. Most professional observers will make videos and take pictures of you so they can review the footage with you. It’s common for the administrator to set up two or three cameras so they can capture your body’s habits from different angles. Running on a treadmill is one of the best ways for him to see what’s going on.
Why Getting a Gait Analysis Is Beneficial
As stated before, the gait analysis isn’t just a study of your feet. Though your feet are a crucial part of the study, it’s more about how the overall way that you move effects your entire body. For example, how your foot strikes the ground when walking and running will effect your posture and if the wrong part of your foot is absorbing most of the shock, you can experience pain in your ankles, knees, hips, and back.
If the examiner sees that you do show signs of compensation, he’ll try to find the source of the problem. Sometimes the trouble is related to the muscle that moves the joint not being strong enough, sometimes the tendons and muscles are simply too stiff, and rarely the problem can be within the joint itself.
If the administrator does detect problems in bodily movements while you are standing, walking, or running he can recommend a course of action. The next step could be stretching stiff muscles, physical therapy, seeing a doctor for additional diagnostic testing, different shoes, or even simply paying attention to how you move so you can break bad posture and mobility habits. The important thing is to end mobility problems as soon as possible because if left untreated they can cause serious injuries and lead to long-term pain.