Why Running Store Gait Analysis Won’t Find You the Best Shoe

Why Running Store Gait Analysis

Runners are always looking for ways to get a competitive edge while minimizing pain and injury. Because shoes are the primary equipment for running, it stands to reason that shoe selection is fundamental to running performance. But with so many options for running shoes, finding the perfect shoe for your foot and running style can be a challenge.

As a courtesy, many well-meaning running stores offer gait analysis to customers. But the methods used by running stores to analyze your gait and the expertise level of running store employees often fall short of accurately assessing your gait and foot mechanics.

In most cases, in-store gait analysis approaches are unscientific and antiquated, relying on arch type, foot pronation and foot strike while ignoring more significant motor deficits in other areas of the body that undermine running performance and increase injury risk.

Your Arches Don’t Tell the Whole Story

One of the first things a running store analysis looks at is the shape and height of your foot arch. This is done by observation, and also by having you stand on a heat-sensitive pad that reveals where your standing foot comes in contact with the ground. Based on that information, your foot is then categorized and shoe types recommended:

Your Arches Don’t
  • “Low” arches: If a high percentage of your foot arch comes in contact with the ground, you are steered toward motion control shoes.
  • “Normal” arches: If a moderate percentage of your foot arch makes contact, you are steered toward stability shoes.
  • “High” arches: If a high percentage of your foot arch is off the ground, you are steered toward shoes with extra cushioning.

While this approach may seem logical at first glance, it is highly flawed. The anatomy of the human foot arch takes on multiple variations, and having “flat feet” or “high arches” does not mean your foot is abnormal.

Moreover, the foot arch behaves differently when in motion, and taking a static measurement is relatively useless for assessing your needs in a running shoe. At the end of the day, there is much more to a runner’s foot that the shape of its arch, and the arch alone does not determine your requirements for a running shoe.

The Terms “Overpronate” and “Oversupinate” are Overrated

The Terms “Overpronate” and “Oversupinate”

As an alternative to or in conjunction with a foot arch assessment, some running stores may videotape your feet as you run on a treadmill. The store “expert” will then review the video to see if your foot arches remain high (oversupinate) or drop low (overpronate) as you run, and make a shoe recommendation based on their observation.

But in truth, observing your foot arch behavior while running does little to inform you about your running performance or injury risk, much less the best shoe for your needs. Many champion distance runners have flat arches, so to say that flat arches are “abnormal” is a misnomer. If a flat arch is able to return to neutral (resupinate) under load, it is mechanically functional and perfectly normal.

If in fact your foot does overpronate while running, the store’s video analysis will not indicate the underlying cause, or how to treat it. It may be caused by a faulty heel strike, or by external rotation of your hips. Only a complete running analysis using instrumented equipment can help you correct and optimize your running form.

An In-Store Running Analysis Looks at Your Feet but Neglects the Rest of Your Body

Running involves more than just your feet, and the needs of each individual runner are unique. Many deficits in running gait originate elsewhere in your body and can only be corrected with accurate diagnosis.

During the running gait cycle, every joint in your body is engaged and every body part involved. The way your muscles, bones and joints interact while running have a profound impact on the overall effectiveness and safety of your running gait. Your posture and the way you move your legs, arms, and hips affect the condition and position of your feet.

A thorough running gait analysis conducted by an expert in running mechanics is the only way to draw accurate conclusions about your running gait and make effective shoe recommendations. The gait analysis methods used by most running stores are simply deficient.

What a Professional Running Gait Analysis Entails

A true running gait analysis provides actionable quantitative data about the mechanical efficiency of your entire body during the running gait cycle. It helps you identify bad habits and compensation patterns that undermine your performance, pinpoints postural issues that can set you up for injury, and provides a data-driven baseline to measure your progress against.

A professional running gait analysis includes:

  • 3D Kinematics: We measure the joint angles of your entire body with infrared cameras in three dimensions, to view movement in all three planes of motion. Analysis with 2D kinematics is not sufficient for correct diagnosis, as it does not let us see movement in the transverse plane, where most running injuries occur.
  • Ground Reaction Forces: Many running injuries result from the interaction of your body mass with the ground. Gait analysis that fails to measure ground reaction forces is missing the most critical information. Ground reaction forces are measured with force plates embedded in a special instrumented treadmill.
  • Pressure Analysis: We measure the distribution of pressure and the pathway of center of pressure during the gait cycle to estimate your foot mechanics, which is a very critical component of gait analysis.
  • Surface electromyography (SEMG): Muscle activation patterns are a critical component of running gait mechanics. Optimal running gait requires a timed and coordinated sequence of muscle recruitment pattens on both sides of the body.

Running Gait Analysis and Retraining at NYDNRehab

The incidence of running injuries is high, relative to other sports, and most injuries are caused by deficient gait mechanics. A 3D running gait analysis provides quantitative data that can be used to retrain the way you run.

The running gait analysis lab at NYDNRehab is equipped with the most technologically advanced research-grade equipment, including:

  • 3D infrared cameras
  • Dual force plate instrumented treadmill
  • SEMG technology
  • Pressure analysis technology
  • C.A.R.E.N (computer assisted rehab environment)
  • Sophisticated software for quantitative analysis
  • Virtual reality real-time feedback

If you want to realize your peak running performance potential and reduce your risk of injuries, schedule a 3D running analysis today at NYDNRehab. Our sports medicine team will identify mechanical deficits and help you perfect your running gait, and we’ll even help you find the perfect running shoe!

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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)

image

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

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