Great question! Running Gait Analysis is one of our specialties here at Precision. Using our knowledge of biomechanics and anatomy and video capture, we identify areas for improvement to reduce your current pains and prevent future injuries. The information that we get from assessing your running gait can tell us a lot of great information as to why you may have had a certain injury in the past, and how we can improve the efficiency of your running. Here are four things that we look at during gait analysis, and why.
1. Cadence: Cadence or step count is the number of steps that you take per minute. There is no one “perfect” cadence, and cadence is affected by leg length and running speed. However, research supports that a lower cadence is strongly associated with increased risk of running related injuries. Generally, we look for a cadence of 160 – 180 steps per minute, however looking at stride length and other variables helps your therapist determine if your cadence should be manipulated. The great news is that the research support that improving cadence by 5-10% can significantly reduce injury risk, and we can teach you how to improve your cadence.
2. Stride Length and Initial Contact: Many people have heard of different initial contact variations – heel, midfoot, and forefoot strike – and might have heard that one is better than another. When looking at running form, we are less concerned about where on the foot you are landing, and more concerned with where your foot is landing relative to your center of mass. This is twofold: First, forcing a change from heel strike to forefoot or vice versa, without any other changes or rationale, can cause more harm than good. Second, when the foot is landing too far forwards from the center of mass (over-striding) there is greater ground reaction force experienced by the bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and the muscles of the hips and legs have to work harder to “brake” and slow down acceleration until the center of mass is over the foot. All of this results in increased injury risk more so than whether you land on the heel, midfoot, or forefoot, which is why we work on various drills, strengthening, and form changes to improve initial contact point relative to the body if it is identified as a risk factor upon gait analysis.
3. Hips and Trunk: When looking from behind, we assess hip and trunk position. A very common issue among runners is hip drop, which is largely due to hip abductor weakness, and causes the opposite hip to drop lower than the stance leg hip. Hip drop can cause the trunk to lean the opposite direction and the arm to abduct to the side as a balance compensation for the hip drop. It can also cause the thigh bone to rotate inwards and knee to collapse towards midline. This can cause hip, knee, ankle, and or back injuries, but can be mitigated with targeted strength training.
4. Pronation Control: When people hear the word “pronation” many think that it’s a bad thing. But pronation (when the ankle rolls inward), is a normal and necessary part of the gait cycle. When the foot pronates, the foot and ankle is flexible, better able to accept ground reaction force, and can accommodate uneven surfaces. What can be problematic is too much pronation or staying in pronation too long and not entering into supination, which can cause a wringing out of the Achilles and posterior tibialis tendons, resulting in pain. It can also cause arch pain, and knee and hip issues. Pronation issues can be related to foot and ankle strength and stability, but the trunk, hips, and knees also influence what happens lower down the chain. We can use our assessment to determine what exercises will best help improve your pronation control.
If you’re interested in learning more about your running form to come back from an injury, prevent future injuries, become a more efficient and resilient runner, and hit those PRs, call and schedule a gait analysis today!
Thanks for reading,
Dr. Elizabeth Karr PT, DPT