How we walk or run, our gait, often goes unnoticed in our day-to-day life. For many, it’s just a basic function of mobility, something we’ve been doing since our toddler years.
The key to resolving persistent pain or why new trainers aren’t helping could be in our walking patterns. It’s possible that you’ve never even considered gait analysis as a solution to these issues.
For others, you might’ve undergone a gait analysis in the past, only to find it unhelpful. But with advancements in technology and a deeper understanding of biomechanics, gait analysis has evolved immensely.
It’s not just about observing how you walk or run; it’s about unlocking the deeper mysteries of human movement, providing insights that can dramatically improve your quality of life. Read on to learn more about what is Gait Analysis and how it can improve your life.
1. What Does a Gait Analysis Do?
Gait analysis, akin to a meticulous mechanic’s inspection, unlocks the mysteries of human movement. Focused on your walking or running stride, it uncovers even the tiniest variations, like spotting a misaligned vehicle wheel.
This assessment provides a panoramic view of your body in motion, capturing visible movements while dissecting subtle weight shifts, joint angles, and muscle engagement.
Like a perceptive mechanic identifying deviations in a vehicle’s mechanisms, gait analysis pinpoints anomalies in your movement’s biomechanics. It detects disruptions in the seamless synchronisation of your body’s elements, which can lead to discomfort, pain, or inefficiency.
These deviations, from improper foot placement to asymmetrical hip movements, symbolise the “wonky wheels” in human locomotion.
Essentially, gait analysis delves profoundly into the complexities of how the human body moves, offering insights beyond surface-level observation. This tool helps medical professionals detect and address movement-related issues, making sure your body operates efficiently and comfortably.
The methodical steps of this process tune your motion, enabling you to move forward in a graceful, smooth, and coordinated manner.
2. What’s Gait and Why is it Important?
Your gait, or your walking and running style, is like your body’s fingerprint. No two gaits are identical. But, just because you can walk or run without falling over doesn’t mean your gait is spot on.
If it’s a smidge off, you could be clocking up miles on those wonky wheels we talked about earlier. And over time, that’s going to wear you out or even lead to injuries. So, when you get a gait analysis, it’s like a magnifying glass on how you walk or run.
3. The Science Behind Gait Analysis
Gait analysis is more than just observing someone walk or run; it’s a deep dive into the biomechanics of human movement. Knowing the gait cycle is important. It shows our posture, muscular engagement, and movement health.
Here’s a closer look:
The Gait Cycle
To simplify things, the gait cycle is broken down into two main phases: the stance phase and the swing phase.
- Stance Phase: This is about 60% of the gait cycle. The foot stays on the ground this whole time. It can be further divided into:
- Initial Contact: Often called heel strike, it’s when the heel first touches the ground.
- Loading Response: This is the brief period when the foot becomes flat on the ground, bearing the body’s weight.
- Midstance: The body’s weight moves directly over the standing foot.
- Terminal Stance: Beginning when the heel lifts and ending when the toes push off the ground.
- Preswing: The final moment of the stance phase, where the toes leave the ground, transitioning to the swing phase.
- Swing Phase: Occupying about 40% of the gait cycle, this is the time when the foot is in the air, swinging forward. It consists of:
- Initial Swing: The phase just after toe-off until the foot is in front of the body.
- Midswing: The foot swings forward and is aligned under the body.
Terminal Swing: The final phase before initial contact, preparing for the next stance phase.
The Anatomy at Play
Our gait isn’t just a function of our feet. It involves intricate coordination of various anatomical structures:
- Bones: The 26 bones in each foot help support the body, but other bones from the lower limb and pelvis help control movement.
- Joints: From the ankle joint’s dorsiflexion and plantar flexion to the knee’s extension and flexion, each joint movement contributes to the gait cycle’s smooth progression.
- Muscles and Tendons: They provide the force needed for movement. For instance, the calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) play a vital role in the push-off phase.
- Ligaments: These provide joint stability. For example, the plantar fascia in the foot helps maintain the arch and absorbs shock.
- Neurological System: The brain and nerves are the unsung heroes. They coordinate muscle activity, enhance balance, and adapt gait based on terrain and speed.
4. The Significance of Gait Analysis
By studying the gait cycle and the involved anatomy, professionals can:
- Identify Abnormalities: Spotting deviations from the ‘normal’ gait pattern can help diagnose conditions, from flat feet to neurological disorders.
- Guide Rehabilitation: For injury recovery, understanding gait helps in devising physiotherapy plans.
- Optimise Athletic Performance: Athletes can make minute adjustments to improve efficiency and reduce injury risk.
- Prescribe Custom Solutions: As with tools like Footscan®, this understanding aids in creating custom orthotics.
In conclusion, gait analysis is a fascinating blend of biomechanics, anatomy, and neurology. Understanding the intricacies of the gait cycle offers profound insights into human movement, guiding interventions and optimisations that can transform the way we move.
4. DIY Gait Analysis at Home
Intrigued about understanding your gait without professional equipment? As interest in personal health tech expands, there are ways you can get foundational insights into your walking or running patterns right from your living room. While this method is rudimentary compared to advanced tools, it’s a start!
Wet Foot Test with a Towel
One of the simplest DIY methods for gait analysis is the wet foot test:
Procedure: Wet your feet, then walk across a flat surface, like a bathroom tile or wooden floor, or step onto a dry towel.
Purpose: This test will leave a footprint on the towel, giving you a snapshot of your arch type.
Read the Results:
- Flat arch: If you see almost the entire imprint of your foot, you likely have a flat arch or low arch. This might mean you overpronate (your feet roll inward) when you walk or run.
- Normal arch: If you see about half of your arch on the towel, you have a neutral or normal arch. Typically, this means you have a balanced gait.
- High arch: If you see only a small section of your foot, mainly the heel and ball, you probably have a high arch. This might mean you underpronate (or supinate), where your feet roll outward.
Importance of Knowing Your Arch Type:
While the wet foot test provides a foundational understanding, remember that it’s just a snapshot. For a more comprehensive analysis, especially if you’re an athlete or have had foot pain, it might be worthwhile to consult with a physiotherapist or a gait specialist.
5. Who’ll Benefit from a Gait Analysis?
Gait analysis has often been associated with high-performance athletes or those with distinct foot disorders. But the reality is, its benefits cast a much wider net. From elite racers to daily walkers, a detailed look at one’s gait can be transformational. Here’s a breakdown of some beneficiaries:
The Marathon Dreamer:
- Profile: This individual is an ambitious runner, aiming to conquer the 26.2 miles or even just their first 5K. They train regularly, clocking in miles each week.
- Injury Prevention: The repetitive motion of running amplifies even the tiniest misalignment. Gait analysis identifies these, helping to prevent common running injuries like shin splints, runner’s knee, or plantar fasciitis.
- Performance Optimisation: Beyond injury prevention, understanding one’s running mechanics can lead to improved stride efficiency shaving off precious minutes from race times.
- Footwear Guidance: With the plethora of running shoes, available, gait analysis helps pinpoint the type that complements a runner’s unique biomechanics.
Flat Foot Freddy:
- Profile: Freddy represents those with distinct foot shapes or conditions, such as flat feet (fallen arches) or the opposite, high arches.
- Custom Solutions: People with flat feet or high arches often require specialised support. Gait analysis can guide the design of custom orthotics tailored to their needs.
- Pain Alleviation: These foot conditions can lead to discomfort or pain. By understanding the foot’s mechanics, interventions can target the root cause of discomfort, providing relief.
- Postural Improvements: The foot’s structure can impact the entire body. Adjustments or supports based on gait analysis can lead to better overall posture and alignment.
- Profile: Eddie is every one of us – someone who walks to the shops, climbs the stairs, or simply strolls in the park. He doesn’t need to be training for a race or dealing with a foot condition to benefit from gait analysis.
- Daily Comfort: Even daily activities can lead to foot fatigue or discomfort. Understanding one’s walking pattern can guide choices in everyday footwear, providing comfort throughout the day.
- Prevention: Even if Eddie feels fine now, subtle biomechanical imbalances might lead to issues down the road. Early identification can ward off potential problems.
- Enhanced Awareness: Being conscious of how one walks can encourage healthier habits, like evenly distributing weight or avoiding overstriding.
Gait analysis isn’t an exclusive tool reserved for a select few. It’s a valuable resource for anyone looking to enhance their movement, reduce discomfort, or simply gain a deeper understanding of their body.
Whether you’re chasing marathon medals, dealing with unique foot shapes, or just navigating everyday life, gait analysis holds benefits for all.
6. Pronation Explained
Pronation refers to the natural inward roll of the foot during walking or running. It’s a normal part of movement, but variations in pronation can affect the body’s alignment and lead to various issues. Let’s delve deeper:
Types of Pronation:
- Neutral Pronation:
- Description: This is the standard motion. As the heel strikes the ground, the foot rolls inward about 15%. The foot comes in complete contact with the ground, supporting the body’s weight without any issues.
- Footwear Guidance: Standard running or walking shoes with moderate arch support are typically suitable.
- Description: Here, the foot rolls inward more than the ideal 15%, leading the arch of the foot to flatten. This can cause added stress on the inner foot, ankle, and other structures.
- Potential Issues: Increased risk of shin splints, bunions, heel pain, and even issues in the knees, hips, or back.
- Footwear Guidance: Shoes with good arch support and stability features are recommended to counteract excessive inward roll.
- Underpronation (or Supination):
- Description: This is the opposite of overpronation. The foot rolls outward more than the typical 15% after the heel strikes, placing stress on the outer edge of the foot and smaller toes.
- Potential Issues: Increased risk of stress fractures, ankle sprains, and problems with the ligaments of the foot and ankle due to reduced shock absorption.
- Footwear Guidance: Shoes with ample cushioning and flexibility can help alleviate the lack of natural shock absorption in underpronators.
Why Understanding Pronation Matters:
- Injury Prevention: Recognising and addressing pronation variations can significantly reduce the risk of various musculoskeletal problems, not just in the feet but also in the rest of the body.
- Optimal Footwear Choice: Understanding one’s pronation type aids in choosing footwear that offers the right kind of support and cushioning, supporting comfort and proper alignment.
- Improved Athletic Performance: For athletes, the right footwear tailored to their pronation type can enhance performance and reduce fatigue.
While pronation is a natural aspect of our gait, understanding its nuances and variations is essential for maintaining foot health, providing comfort, and optimising movement.
7. Footscan® Gait Analysis: The Premier Custom Orthotics Experience
Footscan® isn’t just another name in the world of gait analysis; it’s a revolution.
Distinguishing itself as the crème de la crème of gait assessment tools, this technology has transformed how we understand and address the individual movement patterns of our feet.
Let’s dive deep into the Footscan® experience and its unparalleled benefits.
How Footscan® Stands Apart:
Precision at Its Finest:
Traditional gait analysis tools might give you a general overview, but Footscan® is like having a microscope for your feet. With over 12,000 sensors, it provides a hyper-detailed view of your foot’s interaction with the ground, capturing even the minor discrepancies.
- Dynamic Data Collection: Unlike many systems that just focus on static foot shape or pressure, Footscan® evaluates your feet both when stationary and in motion. This dynamic data collection paints a holistic picture of your foot biomechanics.
- High-Speed Feedback: Capturing data at an impressive 500Hz, Footscan® doesn’t miss a beat. Every subtle change, every slight shift in weight, every tiny twist is recorded with impeccable accuracy.
Custom Orthotics and the Benefits:
- Bespoke Design: Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all solutions. Footscan® data allows for the creation of orthotics that are custom-tailored not just to your foot’s shape, but also to its unique way of moving. This precision provides optimal support and alignment.
- Advanced Manufacturing: Leveraging state-of-the-art 3D printing technology, the orthotics produced post-Footscan® analysis are durable, perfectly contoured, and designed for long-term use.
- Injury Prevention: By addressing even the subtlest biomechanical flaws, custom orthotics can reduce the risk of overuse injuries, muscle strains, and joint pain. This means fewer setbacks and more continuous progress in your physical endeavours.
- Enhanced Performance: For athletes and fitness enthusiasts, these orthotics can be game-changers. They check the foot’s mechanics are optimal, which can improve stride efficiency, reduce fatigue, and even enhance power and stability.
- Pain Relief: Many chronic foot issues, from plantar fasciitis to bunions, can be alleviated or even corrected with the right orthotic support. By addressing the root biomechanical causes, Footscan® derived orthotics provide a therapeutic solution.
- Improved Posture and Alignment: It’s not just about the feet. Proper foot alignment can have a ripple effect up the kinetic chain, positively impacting knees, hips, and even spinal posture.To sum it up, Footscan® is more than just a gait analysis tool—it’s a comprehensive solution for those looking to truly understand their feet and benefit from the pinnacle of custom orthotic design.
Whether you’re an athlete striving for peak performance or someone simply looking to walk without pain. Footscan® offers insights and solutions that are leagues ahead of conventional methods.
Harnessing the Power of Gait Analysis at Lyfe Health: Step into a Pain-Free Future!
It’s clear that gait analysis has transformed from being a niche tool to an essential aspect of understanding human movement.
It offers profound solutions not just for athletes, but for anyone aiming to optimise their mobility, prevent injuries, or address chronic issues.
At Lyfe Healthcare in Bournemouth, we’re delighted to showcase the groundbreaking Footscan Diagnostics. By uniting technology with knowledge, we provide a comprehensive gait analysis tailored to your individual needs.
Our state-of-the-art facility, with its cosy and tranquil atmosphere, guarantees that while you delve into the realm of biomechanics, you can also take a break and savour a cup of coffee at our cafe.
So, if you’re struggling with issues with your knees, hips, backs, or your neck, don’t wait. Experience the fusion of healthcare and hospitality, and embark on a journey to enhanced and pain-free mobility.
Book now and let us help you walk and run in harmony with your body. Welcome to the future of mobility care.
Common Myths and Misconceptions
Gait analysis, the study of human movement patterns, especially during walking and running, has become a key tool for professionals in the sports medicine, rehabilitation, and footwear industries.
However, as with many specialised fields, misconceptions abound. Let’s debunk some common myths.
It Predicts Future Injuries with Exact Precision:
- Myth: Gait analysis can tell you precisely when and how you’ll sustain an injury.
- Reality: While gait analysis can highlight imbalances or unusual patterns that may predispose an individual to injuries, it can’t predict the exact timing or nature of a future injury. It’s more about risk assessment than a crystal ball.
Only Athletes Need Gait Analysis:
- Myth: This tool is exclusive for elite athletes.
- Reality: Anyone, from casual walkers to marathon runners, can benefit. It can help recommend the right footwear, identify postural misalignments, or help in rehabilitation after an injury.
All Gait Analyses are the Same:
- Myth: A simple home test is equivalent to a professional assessment.
- Reality: While DIY methods like the wet foot test offer a snapshot, professional setups using motion-capture technology provide a more comprehensive and accurate view of one’s gait.
A “Normal” Gait Exists, and Everyone Should Strive for It:
- Myth: There’s a one-size-fits-all optimal walking or running style.
- Reality: Everyone’s body is different, and while there are efficient movement patterns, what’s optimal for one person might not be for another. The goal is often to find the most efficient and pain-free movement for the individual.
Gait Analysis is Only About the Feet:
- Myth: It’s just fancy foot reading.
- Reality: While feet play a critical role, gait analysis considers the entire kinetic chain – from the ankles, knees, and hips to the spine. Every part plays a role in how we move.
Changes Recommended After Gait Analysis Yield Instant Results:
- Myth: Once you know the issues, you can correct them overnight.
- Reality: Altering one’s gait or addressing imbalances often requires time, specific exercises, and sometimes even physical therapy. Instant results are rare.
Footwear is the Only Solution to Gait Issues:
- Myth: If you get the right shoes, all your problems will disappear.
- Reality: While proper footwear can help, it’s just one piece of the puzzle. Strengthening exercises, flexibility training, and sometimes even lifestyle changes play equally vital roles.
The High Price Tag Myth:
- Myth: Gait analysis is always costly.
- Reality: The cost of gait analysis can vary based on the facility and the depth of analysis. However, it’s essential to view it as a long-term investment in your body’s health rather than an unnecessary expense.
The Limited Insight Myth:
- Myth: Gait analysis can’t advise me on the type of running suitable for me.
- Reality: On the contrary! Gait analysis can provide invaluable insights into your biomechanics, helping to tailor your running goals and training methods, making sure that every step you take is efficient and effective.
The Frequent Analysis Myth:
- Myth: I need to get a gait analysis done often.
- Reality: While it’s beneficial to have regular check-ins, especially if you’re an active individual or have had previous injuries, for most people, undergoing gait analysis every couple of years should suffice. Always consider your personal circumstances and consult with professionals on the ideal frequency for you.
Gait analysis, when understood correctly, offers invaluable insights into an individual’s movement patterns. It can guide interventions, footwear choices, and exercise regimens, but it’s essential to approach it with informed expectations.