Whether it is walking or running, we each have a distinct way of moving. Many runners have been captivated in ways to gain more information about their running in hopes of improving their form, decreasing risk of injury and hopefully improving speed. Gait analysis can be used for this and to help prevent and recover from injury as well. Here are 5 things to look for in a great gait analysis:
1. The person performing the analysis is a qualified professional (and a runner him/herself). I am biased toward using physical therapists for this issue. A physical therapist has specific training in the whole body movement and dysfunction (not just the foot area), and focuses on it daily. They have been trained to pick these up with their eyes (visually) and with their hands (by palpating the bones, tissues and fascia during movement and at still). They can likely give you more information on your own unique postural running form and what injuries you might be at risk for picking up than you are interested in. (Or knowing many runners, maybe not…)The professional should have more training beyond just being a coach, as knowlege in this area extends beyond the education of basic running form.
2. Ideally the gait analysis is done in person. Obviously, the best amount of information can be obtained from a hands on assessment. However, don’t discount video-analysis alone, if the person looks at your flexibility, movement patterns and is well versed in running analysis and the runner. A great professional can pick up on notable points and a decent assessment can be completed from afar. However, if you have a current injury or are excessively injury-prone, get it done in person.
3. The professional looks at your running analysis, posture, movement, and flexibility and if in person, the joint play (or the way your joints move together without you moving them). If the person is just looking at your running form, they are going to be missing out on the vital information. For example, if you have hip drop on one side more than another, a person may conclude that it could be from weakness in the opposite gluteal region. Or if a movement and posture assessment was completed, they may pick up on excessive antetorsion (or turning in of the leg) on that side. This would change the recommendations for strengthening or tips to improve the running form. Looking at all the necessary areas is important to giving you the most correct information to make you a better runner.
4. The video-analysis is completed from the front, sides (yes both sides if able) and back and is of the whole body. It might be inconvenience to have yourself recorded in all planes of movement, but it is necessary. A foot analysis is not enough and video below the knees does not provide enough information to the person doing the analysis. There is a lot going on above the knee and foot that will affect form and running is a whole body activity. Incidently, studies also show that foot analysis has not been linked positively to figuring out the correct shoe for runners.
5. The person completing the gait analysis can give you specific exercises, flexibility movements, running drills and running cues tailored to your specific needs and history. They should be able to show them to you and explain why each specific one will help you. For example, if you have minimal knee lift on both sides and it was noted that you have an anterior tilt in the pelvis (tilts forward), they should be able to explain why you specifically would benefit from specific core work to help with stabilization of the pelvis, hip flexor stretching with a posterior pelvic tilt, possible gentle self mobilizations of the hip during stretching, and a high knee drill added into your workout. Or they may recommend a different course of action because your flexibility is lacking in the calf area. Some running form errors or problems can appear to be one thing but once properly investigated, are actually another. You should not be given general strengthening or drills without knowing why you specifically need them and how they would change your running form.