Top Myths About Gait Analysis. Hint: It’s Not About the Shoes

Top Myths About Gait Analysis

This post launches a series that demystifies what gait analysis is and is not.

The next part: It’s Only for Improving Athletic Performance

Today we begin a series on the most common myths and misconceptions about gait analysis. Through this discussion, we hope to shed light on what gait analysis is, what it isn’t, and how it can be helpful to you as an athlete. Let’s start with one of the most common misconceptions:

Gait analysis is
a) only about how you walk or run
b) only about your feet and your shoes

Most people think gait analysis is all about–and ONLY about–someone looking at you as you walk or run while evaluating your feet and your shoes. How many of you have done the following? A clerk in your local running store watches you jog, and suggests a pair of shoes that are more stable, or more neutral, or more cushioned, or are the type that “forces” you to land midfoot. Voila! Your biomechanical problems are solved. This is what most people know–and have come to accept–as gait analysis.

We are here to tell you that a shoe store gait analysis is about as far from the real deal as you can get. In fact, true gait analysis is not a generic exercise, but is a scientifically-based and technically precise process. It is highly individualized, and reveals much about how you will hold up to training and, ultimately, perform.

When conducting a gait analysis, like the evaluations we offer at Pursuit Athletic Performance, the feet are only one small piece of your biomechanical puzzle. What happens at the feet is merely a part of a holistic, whole body, integrated MOVEMENT pattern. Running, like most other whole body activities (such as swimming or playing many field sports), is essentially a unique way of moving. When we analyze a client statically, dynamically, and then running on the treadmill during a gait analysis, it serves to provide a unique, personal movement “map.” That “map” reveals the programming of everything happening within the body–from kinestetic awareness and habit, to individual levels of mobility, stability, flexibility, and functional strength. The analysis of all these different elements taken together is what creates a complete picture of a person’s gait. In essence, what we do isn’t “gait” analysis at all, it is true “movement” analysis.

Gait analysis uncovers precisely how YOUR body is moving. Every activity, even standing still, represents a unique movement pattern. That pattern is bred from your habits and lifestyle, as well as your body’s mobility, stability, flexibility and strength. Every action you take–running stride, pedal stroke, swim stroke, etc.–represents a unique movement pattern. If your movement patterns include compensations (and they likely do), we can pinpoint the areas in the body where these losses of efficiency, or compensation, originate.

Where athletes get into trouble is when major compensation, which often leads to true dysfunction, continues for extended periods of time. What typically happens is this….

Compensations in the body lead to imbalance around the joints. The larger prime movers (hamstrings, glutes, quads, etc.) become less active, and end up contributing less than their fair share of the work in moving us around. The smaller/tiny stabilizing muscles are forced to step in (compensate) and do the work of the larger, more powerful prime movers. The stabilizers are taxed day in and day out, mile after mile. Over time they end up, in a word, fried. Shredded. The wear and tear on the stabilizers greatly compromises recovery and your ability to train consistently. In short, this scenario is an injury waiting to happen. We see it over and over again.

Discovering the inefficiencies and compensation unique to YOU is the power of what true gait analysis can reveal. Once uncovered, we then begin to address inefficient and costly “energy leaks” that rob you of power and free speed. We can’t say it enough–improper, unbalanced movement limits your ultimate potential and puts you at an exponentially-increased risk of injury.

In short, gait analysis is about YOU, and your personal and very unique way of moving. Unless the underlying causes of your dysfunctional movement patterns are addressed, your patterns won’t change, and, thus, the risk of injury won’t improve. Gait analysis is about looking at your entire body as a holistic organism–a single amazing unit. It goes far beyond an untrained eye watching you jog in a pair of sneakers.

Our next post will explore myth #2–gait analysis is only for healthy athletes who want to perform better.

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