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Can Gait Analysis Make You a Better Runner?

Can gait analysis make you a better runner?

Can Gait Analysis Make You a Better Runner?

Running, just like any other sport skill, can be improved with proper training. Your running technique isn’t always innate and it can be trained to improve your performance, increase efficiency and prevent injury. A comprehensive gait analysis by a physical therapist at Blue Hills Sports & Spine Rehabilitation can help to identify any running abnormalities that you may have, and get you on the right track to a better and more efficient running style.

Running Injuries 

Running injuries are commonly seen in physical therapy clinics around the country. Common injuries related to running include runner’s knee, Achilles tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, iliotibial band syndrome, hamstring issues, and stress fractures. If you’re a runner, you’ve likely felt a few aches and pains over the years, and if you’re an avid runner, the last thing you need is an injury slowing you down.

Your running technique might not seem like an obvious problem, and you may be progressing your program gradually, but if you’re still running into injuries, you may have an abnormal movement pattern that is difficult to detect. This abnormal movement pattern may only show up once you’re fatigued to a certain point, or it may be too subtle for an untrained person to pick up on. In these cases, one of the easiest things you can do is consult a physical therapist for a gait analysis to identify the problem(s).

What is a Gait Analysis? 

A gait analysis measures your body movements, angles, muscle function, and body mechanics. A gait analysis performed by a physical therapist involves a comprehensive analysis of the foot in various states – non-weight bearing, standing, walking, running, and after fatigue. Further, your physical therapist evaluates more than just your feet – they look at your knees, pelvis, and lower back, as well as your arm swing. A gait analysis is used to identify problem areas in your running technique, assess efficiency, and treat issues in particular areas.

There are a variety of technologies and methods for gait analysis, including:

- History of running and associated injuries

- Examination of shoe wearing

- Comprehensive physical exam

- Muscle and range of motion assessment

- Computer-interfaced video camera monitoring to measure motion

- Muscle activity monitoring with electrodes

- Force platforms to measure force and torque


How Can Gait Analysis Help?

After your physical therapist finishes their comprehensive evaluation, a treatment plan for any issues with your gait is created. The treatment plan is designed to focus on the affected limb(s), with the goal of getting you to your optimal level of functioning, in the shortest amount of time.

By using the data obtained from the gait analysis, your physical therapist is able to see how your body reacts to certain movements and they can identify weak points in your running form. This helps your physical therapist distinguish a compensation pattern from the root cause of any dysfunction found, which allows them to target treatment toward the root cause of the problem, rather than your symptoms.

From the information that they gather, your physical therapist may make a simple change to your footwear or add orthotics, or your treatment plan may include strategies to strengthen muscles, improve your joint mobility, improve your shoe wear, adjust your form, and/or reduce impact while running to become a more efficient runner. They will teach you how to run properly and advise you on what you can do to minimize your risk of injury.

Optimal Gait for All Runners?

It’s important to remember that there is not one single technique that is best for all runners. Everyone has variations in their anatomy and nervous systems and have learned to move differently. However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few general concepts that all runners share. All runners, regardless of skill level, can benefit from a comprehensive gait analysis to determine if they are running in the most optimal way.

Running can be an enjoyable pain free activity - if you want to avoid aches and pains, seeing a physical therapist at Blue Hills Sports & Spine Rehabilitation for a gait analysis is one of the first steps you should take. They can help you achieve a running stance that is effective and safe so that you can enjoy running with a minimized risk of injury, and be a better, and more efficient, runner too.