Running Gait Analysis: What it is, what it isn’t, and how it can help you run better

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Recreational running is a great way to stay fit, clear your head and socialize with others who love to pound the pavement. But like any physical activity, running has its injury risks, most notably to the lower extremities. Sadly, many runners have been led to believe that avoiding injury is a simple matter of finding the right shoe.

It is true that supportive athletic footwear provides some protection from injury in any sport. A well-fitted shoe provides shock absorption, stability and protection from sticks, stones and potholes. But the fact is that most running injuries have nothing to do with footwear.

Common Running Injuries

According to one source, the incidence and prevalence of running injuries ranges from 19% to 92%. While your risk of getting an injury depends on many factors, including age, sex, fitness level, speed, distance and a plethora of other variables, it is fairly safe to say that, even at 19%, your risk of sustaining a running injury is pretty high.

The most common running injuries include:

Despite popular belief among runners that wearing the wrong shoes is one of the biggest risk factors for running injuries, research shows that up to 80% of running injuries are due to poor gait mechanics. The remaining percentage is attributed to overtraining, being overweight, and some less common causes.

The Problem with Running Store Gait Analysis

Many big name shoe brands and sporting goods chains offer in-store “gait analysis” for the purpose of helping your select the “right” running shoe. However, there are several problems with the running store approach.

To begin with, running stores use an outdated and unscientific approach to fitting shoes based on arch type. The concept breaks foot types down into three categories: high arch, normal arch and low arch.

To determine arch height, the customer is asked to stand on a heat-sensitive pad, leaving an impression where their feet make contact. High arch runners are told they “oversupinate” and are recommended a shoe with more cushioning. Normal arch runners are told they are “neutral” and are recommended a shoe for stability. Low arch customers are told they are “overpronators” and steered toward a motion control shoe.

The problem with the arch-type model is that it is not founded on scientific evidence and has been totally debunked by research. It presumes that how your feet make contact while standing on a pad is how they will perform while running. Study after study has shown there is no correlation between arch type, shoe type and incidence of injury.

Some running stores may offer a “video gait analysis” of your feet while running. Using this method, the salesperson determines by observation whether the arch of your weight bearing foot is too high, too low or neutral, taking us back to the disproven arch-type model. While it may help to sell shoes, this is not a true gait analysis, or even a foot analysis.

The fact is that retail salespeople are unqualified to perform a true gait analysis. They have no knowledge of gait mechanics or the mechanisms of running injuries. They are merely regurgitating what they have been told by the shoe manufacturer, for the purpose of selling more shoes.

True Running Gait Analysis

Your running gait is not determined by your arch height, and taking a video of your feet while you run is not enough to analyze your gait. A true gait analysis looks at how your entire body interacts, and assesses how movements in one area can cause overload or imbalances in another.

Your hip and trunk mechanics can have a profound effect on how you control movement in your lower limbs. Past injuries, muscle imbalances and other factors can lead to compensation patterns that cause faulty gait mechanics, which can eventually lead to injury.

The goal of a true gait analysis in not to help you select the best running shoe. It is to identify and correct deficits in gait mechanics, with the end goals of improving performance and preventing injury.

Running Gait Analysis and Retraining in NYC

If you want to improve your running gait and reduce your risk of injury, the running gait lab at NYDNR is the best place in NYC to get a comprehensive running gait analysis. We use state-of-the-art technologies, including dual force plates, surface electromyography, motion capture video and virtual reality feedback to thoroughly analyze and correct your running gait. Contact us today, and see what a difference gait analysis at NYDNR can make in your running performance.

Source:

Saragiotto, Bruno Tirotti, Tiê Parma Yamato, and Alexandre Dias Lopes. “What do recreational runners think about risk factors for running injuries? A descriptive study of their beliefs and opinions.” Journal of orthopaedic & sports physical 44.10 (2014): 733-738.

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In this instance, an athlete was originally diagnosed with minor quadriceps muscle strain and was treated for four weeks, with unsatisfactory results. When he came to our clinic, the muscle was not healing, and the patients’ muscle tissue had already begun to atrophy.

Upon examination using MSUS, we discovered that he had a full muscle thickness tear that had been overlooked by his previous provider. To mitigate damage and promote healing, surgery should have been performed immediately after the injury occurred. Because of misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment, the patient now has permanent damage that cannot be corrected.

The most important advantage of Ultrasound over MRI imaging is its ability to zero in on the symptomatic region and obtain imaging, with active participation and feedback from the patient. Using dynamic MSUS, we can see what happens when patients contract their muscles, something that cannot be done with MRI. From a diagnostic perspective, this interaction is invaluable.

Dynamic ultrasonography examination demonstrating
the full thickness tear and already occurring muscle atrophy
due to misdiagnosis and not referring the patient
to proper diagnostic workup

Demonstration of how very small muscle defect is made and revealed
to be a complete tear with muscle contraction
under diagnostic sonography (not possible with MRI)

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Complete tear of rectus femoris
with large hematoma (blood)

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Separation of muscle ends due to tear elicited
on dynamic sonography examination

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