Ask a group of runners what gait analysis is for and most will reply something along the lines of ‘to help select the right pair of running shoes’.

Although modern research has made it quite clear that the traditional ‘how much does your arch drop’ method of prescribing trainers has no scientific evidence to support it, most runners still believe that gait analysis provides a pathway to discovering the perfect running shoe. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. Studies show that there is no statistically valid correlation between how ‘much’ you pronate and how likely you are to get injured. The term ‘overpronation’ is nonsensical; a quick look at the huge number of runners (including world class elites) who ‘overpronate’ but suffer no pain/injury should be enough to put these traditional beliefs to bed but for some reason they insist on hanging around.

Modern gait analysis can play a major role in helping runners recover from current injury, reduce risk of future injury and improve running performance, as long as it’s done properly and makes use of the quality studies & research that does exist. Over the next few months, we will be taking a detailed look at elements that make up evidence based running gait analysis, focussing on how relevant data collection and correct interpretation can effectively help runners of all levels. We start in Part 1 by considering the integral components of gait analysis, each of which plays a hugely important part to help assure that the interpretations, conclusions and advice handed out to the runner will be of value.

#1 Case History

Matt Phillips' Gait Analysis Series

When it comes to explaining present pain, injury and/or inhibited performance, your past plays a huge role. Medical history, injury history, exercise history: all of these need to be noted and taken into account when we start to put the pieces of the jigsaw together. The taking of a detailed Case History may well be the most important part of a gait analysis as it is what makes YOU an individual.

#2 Physical Assessment

Matt Phillips' Gait Analysis Series

How you run can be down to many factors, both psychological & physical. To analyse & interpret the way a runner moves, it is important to know whether patterns seen are down to physical factors such as strength & mobility or psychological factors such as habit & beliefs. In reality, it’s probably a bit of both but it’s vital that relevant physical tests are performed & noted before the runner is observed on a treadmill.

#3 Treadmill Analysis

Matt Phillips' Gait Analysis Series

And so we arrive at the actual treadmill part of a gait analysis. Despite popular belief, studies show that running form on a treadmill does not differ that much from running form seen outside, as long as the runner has been given sufficient time to feel comfortable & relaxed. Form does change with intensity, so it is important that data is collected at appropriate speed/s.

#4 Data Interpretation

Matt Phillips' Gait Analysis Series

A gait analysis can only ever be as good as its interpretation. Use the most sophisticated equipment in the world but if you jump to erroneous conclusions that software is worthless. This is why therapists & analysts need to stay up to date with current research, employ an evidence-based approach & avoid the temptation to entertain one-size-fits-all approaches. There is no one optimum way to run.

In future instalments of this Gait Analysis Series, we shall take a more detailed look at the individual elements that make up the components above, including some of the most commonly used strength & mobility tests used within the physical assessment, what type of data we look for during the treadmill analysis and how we collect it, evidence based ways of interpreting typical data results seen, and finally a selection of the most common exercises, drills and gait retraining prescribed. Stay with is throughout the series and as always feel free to email us feedback or questions.

Matt Phillips is a Running Injury Specialist & Video Gait Analyst at StrideUK & Studio57clinic in Sussex. Listen to Matt’s podcast: