Updated: Mar 27, 2020
One of the services that I offer that I often recommend to clients is a gait analysis, which involves the observation of the client’s movement, or ‘gait cycle’ when running or walking. This is a very useful tool in the Biomechanist’s arsenal, as it can highlight significant inconsistencies within an individual’s movement e.g. from left to right, but also it can pick up on aspects of the runner’s technique which are particularly inefficient – of which there are usually many due to the muscle imbalances that exist as a result of our lifestyles e.g. sitting and mobile phone use etc. These inherent imbalances won’t simply disappear when we start to run, and they are very important to pick up on, as if we are not moving how we are naturally supposed to, this can have dire consequences in the short-term in the form of sports injuries etc, but also for our long-term health. Essentially, is the way you run putting too much pressure on certain joints? For example, is the knee; which is a hinge-joint only designed to go forwards and back, being put under excessive strain by being torsioned in unnatural directions from muscles around it not activating or overworking?
In the field of treating sports injuries, there are many different approaches to take from various practitioners such as Physiotherapists, Osteopaths, Chiropractors, Sports Therapists, Biomechanists and Podiatrists. The purpose of this blog is not to got through the differences between all of these, as it would then become too drawn-out, and by now you should hopefully be aware of the unique benefits biomechanics can bring. Rather, the point I wanted to make is that with there being so many potential ways of doing things, I feel it is important to recommend that whenever possible, a gait analysis is included to make up a thorough treatment plan. Many practitioners do not opt to do this, which I find odd, because for instance, if you are treating a runner for whatever reason – i.e. injury rehabilitation, improving efficiency, or for injury prevention, then why would you not want to see them run? This after all, is what they do, and without this observation, your treatment won’t be as applicable to the athlete’s typical day-to-day real-world scenario. Even if the person you are dealing with isn’t a runner and is involved in another sport, the chances are that that sport still involves running in some big way e.g. running around a football pitch. Running therefore should be thought of as the foundation of nearly every sport! This too goes for non-athletes – an individual may not run, but it is still highly likely that any dysfunction they have is being aggravated by walking around, so a walking gait analysis would be useful. Biomechanics is about being a detective and learning as much about the athletes you encounter as possible, and the more clues you pick up in your observations, the more this will inform practice.
"Even if the person you are dealing with isn’t a runner and is involved in another sport, the chances are that that sport still involves running in some big way e.g. running around a football pitch. Running therefore should be thought of as the foundation of nearly every sport!"
How is this different to a gait analysis provided by a sports shop? Many runners have a gait analysis provided by a sports shop when choosing an appropriate pair of shoes for their feet. While this is not a bad thing to do, in most cases this is only a very short, basic analysis, and is not usually performed by a biomechanical specialist. Therefore, by having an appointment dedicated specifically to this, it gives the opportunity to learn much more about your body. Also, crucially, most sports shops will provide only a very localised analysis of the feet and lower leg. While this is undoubtedly effective for choosing appropriate footwear, it does not consider the bigger picture, by analysing other areas of the body. For instance, I strongly believe in a 'top-down' approach whereby what goes on further up in the body often contributes to dysfunction of the lower limb. Therefore, it is only by considering the body as a whole that these problems can be addressed.
"most sports shops will provide only a very localised analysis of the feet and lower leg. While this is undoubtedly effective for choosing appropriate footwear, it does not consider the bigger picture, by analysing other areas of the body."
So, what do my gait analysis sessions involve? At the current time of writing I do not have the means to observe anyone running or walking on a treadmill. However, while this is a common approach which does have its advantages, I do feel that doing more of a ‘real-world’ gait analysis where the observation is done out and about on a flat predictable surface is also of equal benefit. While there is some evidence to suggest that treadmill running produces a running performance that is very similar to running across a normal surface, it would be unwise to ignore the high abundance of people who would anecdotally state their discomfort of running on a treadmill due to feeling unbalanced, which could potentially alter their gait cycle.
At the time of writing I currently offer a mobile gait analysis for just £45, and this includes the mobile service, video recording and analysis, along with a write-up summarising the findings and recommendations. This price is well below the usual going rate for this type of service, so this is your ideal chance to book in for one of these sessions at an affordable price!