Gait analysis is the systematic study of animal locomotion, more specifically the study of human motion, using the eye and the brain of observers, augmented by instrumentation for measuring body movements, body mechanics, and the activity of the muscles. Gait analysis is used to assess and treat individuals with conditions affecting their ability to walk. It is also commonly used in sports biomechanics to help athletes run more efficiently and to identify posture-related or movement-related problems in people with injuries.
Gait Analysis: Normal and Pathological Function, Jacquelin Perry and Judith M. Burnfield
The results of such analysis by trained professionals can be used for the following:
medical diagnostics, chiropractic and osteopathic treatment, competitive biomechanics, biometrics and, believe it or not, surveillance; we used such a trait to help identify known ‘players’ amongst the IRA while on an operational tour of Belfast.
But what it is not for, is the fitting of running shoes. In my opinion, gait analysis should not be used as the primary reason for ‘prescribing’ a particular running shoe.
By now, we all know the drill; turn up to your local running store, get on a treadmill, run for a few minutes, and then a retail assistant will tell you what shoes to buy, regardless of fit, mileage, surface, any predisposed medical and structural issues, you may have. And all this from videoing just your feet! If you’re super lucky, you might get sold an insole too, to help ‘cure’ your flat feet!
More forward-thinking stores may have a 3D system, which gives you a colourful array of pictures, pressure zones and more data than an aircraft traffic controller can handle.
At this point, I must say that this amount of data and pictures is invaluable for so many reasons. It can show how efficiently or inefficiently a runner is moving; it can show up muscle imbalances from side to side and front to rear; it can even help identify causes of injury or potential sites of further injury. And yes - it shows whether you over-pronate or not. However, in all these instances, it does not tell you ‘why’.
To sports therapists, medical professionals and coaches, the information gained from a gait analysis is manna from heaven - to help treat and prevent injury; correct and potentially improve running efficiency; and prescribe orthotics if needed.
But what it can’t do is tell you what shoes to run in.
No shoe provides a magic bullet to get us running more efficiently, with more speed, with fewer chances of injury...
A shoe will never cure an injury on its own.
A running shoe is simply the medium to help you move comfortably. The way you move or run is established by your predisposed body position, dictated by the way you carry yourself on a daily basis.
Such things as your job, the way you stand when chatting to someone in the street, your previous medical history, will all influence how you move.
A good gait analysis can be very basic in its process but it is the interpretation of the findings or data, and what we do with this information that is the most crucial.
Most running store assistants that undertake gait analysis don’t have a sports coaching or therapy qualification, and so, in my opinion, should not offer any interpreting of any concluding data. It is morally wrong, and at worst, potentially damaging.
So the concept of a ‘gait analysis’ suddenly becomes more complex. It is so confusing with all the conflicting information out there.
So if what you’re saying is right, you ask, what is the point of gait analysis for trying running shoes?
Agreed - what is the point? You might as well just try on a selection of shoes and then get on the treadmill and see if they are comfy.
However, there’s a problem here, too. Running on a treadmill is different to navigating the pavements of our towns, and completely different to running on the trails and mountains!
A lot of runners rarely use a treadmill and so feel uncomfortable and awkward. Most of the time we are just trying to avoid falling off the damn thing, staring at the red flashing lights on the dash in front and aware everyone is looking at us. Highly unlikely to encourage your natural running form then!
As part of our 45 minute shoe fitting appointment - which is free - we will always encourage you to do one last test outside with the shoe we think is for you.
Run Venture’s ethos, opinion and best practise if you will, is to put you in a pair of shoes that suit you. By that we mean are comfy, fit well and are suitable for your needs, ie road, trail, etc.
We believe running shoes should be fitted to you. Not by using a gimmick, a plethora of sales waffle, an array of data, and definitely not by selling you the latest production that all your mates are wearing.
If you feel that you need more detailed expert advice, Run Venture offers a Running Movement Workshop as a service, where we work with an individual to look at running form.
Get in touch if you'd like to book in with us.