By: Christopher Travers, MS
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Marathon runners can drop their time by two minutes and everyday runners can avoid injury by simply improving their efficiency. One way to do this is to undergo a gait analysis.
Your gait is your running style, and people have many different patterns. Gait analysis is an assessment of your body mechanics, and this analysis can help you improve your running efficiency, prevent injury and determine the cause of an injury. It’s all about proper mechanics.
Injured and uninjured athletes alike can benefit from gait analysis.
If you are injured from running, you could learn about your running style and foot strike and find out if your shoe wear or a muscle imbalance contributed to the injury. If you have no injuries, a proper gait analysis can help you to avoid running injuries by perfecting your running form.
Gait analysis also can make you a more efficient runner. For example, excessive foot pronation, short or long strides, or excessive arm movements can cause you to expend more energy than necessary and decreases your running efficiency.
What happens during an assessment
Physical therapists and exercise physiologists assess a number of aspects of a runner’s gait through direct observation and by analyzing video. They include your:
- Running history
- Training goals
- Foot placement
- Shoe wear
- Strength and flexibility
- Heel strike
- Arm swing
- Hip, knee and foot mechanics
After a full assessment, you will learn strength and flexibility exercises, personal body mechanics issues, and ways to change or improve your gait pattern to be more efficient and potentially prevent injury.
If you’re considering undergoing a gait analysis, look for programs that offer a comprehensive evaluation that includes strength and flexibility assessments, and videotaped gait analysis. Other offerings to look for include customized conditioning and training to target key improvement areas. Many programs may also offer education on body mechanics and physiologic capabilities, coaching on how to prevent injuries and comprehensive rehabilitation for injuries.
Extras may include testing for body composition and VO2 Max exercise testing, which measures the maximum amount of oxygen that you can use during intense exercise.
Armed with this data, exercise physiologists can make detailed recommendations about your running technique, strengthening and stretching programs, and even shoe selection to best fit your needs.