Gait is the way in which we move our whole body from A to B. Most often this is done by walking and running. Gait analysis is used to assess the way we walk or run to highlight biomechanic abnormalities, and then how to correct these.
What are Biomechanic Abnormalities?
Being able to move in an efficient way is important in reducing the risk of injuries. Having joints allowing sufficient movement and muscles able to provide sufficient force is essential to generate an efficient gait cycle. If joints are stiff and/or muscles are weak, the body must find ways of compensating for the problem, leading to these biomechanical abnormalities.
Some examples of these abnormalities are:
– Increased Q angle
– Hip hiking (or hitching) (lifting the hip on one side)
– Ankle equinus (limited ankle dorsiflexion)
– Pelvic tilt (can be either anterior, posterior or lateral)
– Trendelenberg gait
These biomechanical problems are usually caused by muscle imbalances. Sometimes they can be caused by structural problems, such as leg length discrepancies resulting in hip hitching.
What is Gait Analysis?
Gait analysis is usually performed by a professional such as a Physiotherapist or Podiatrist. Gait analysis usually involves walking or running on a treadmill. In some cases, the professional will simply watch the way that you move, looking in particular at your feet, ankles, knees, hips, pelvis and lower back. In more specialist settings, a video recorder will often be set-up behind, to the side and in front of a treadmill. This can then be relayed to a laptop where slow motion and freeze frames can be used to carefully assess your running or walking style. Most injuries are often caused by poor biomechanics. Runners and athletes whose sports require a high level and/or distance of running should make sure they have had a gait analysis and buy the correct footwear to avoid future overuse injuries.
The following are a list of common overuse injuries associated with poor gait biomechanics:
– Shin splints
– ITBFS (iliotibial band friction syndrome)
– Patella tendonitis
– Patello-femoral dysfunction
– Achilles tendonitis/ tendonopathy
– Lumbar or low back pain
– Hip bursitis
The Gait Cycle in Walking and Running
The gait cycle is the continuous repetitive pattern of walking or running. The gait cycle is split into two main phases, stance and swing phase, with one complete gait cycle including both a stance and swing phase. The stance phase is the period where the foot is in contact with the ground. The swing phase is when the foot is not on the ground, i.e. in the air.
– Stance Foot Strike: the point when the foot hits the ground
– Midstance: where we are transferring weight from the back to the front of our feet
– Toe Off: pushing off with the toes to propel us forwards
– Swing Acceleration: the period from toe off to maximum knee flexion in order for the foot to clear the ground
– Mid-swing: the period between maximum knee flexion and the forward movement of the tibia (shin bone) to a vertical position
– Deceleration: the end of the swing phase before heel strike When running, a higher proportion of the cycle is swing phase as the foot is in contact with the ground for a shorter period.
Corrections to your Gait Cycle
If it is found that there is an abnormality of your gait cycle. This can usually be correct with reviewing your footwear, and the implementation of a muscle balancing (strength) program. Specific running shoes can aid those who over-pronate, over-supinate or have a neutral position.
It is important to make sure you have the right running shoes for your style of running. Implementing running drills are important to help break down the running gait cycle into parts. This allows the client (person learning to improve their gait) to work on perfecting each part of the cycle, which in time will improve their running form.
This allows for improved running efficiency, reduced risk of injury, and ultimately creates a faster and better-looking runner.