Many people think gait analysis is all about—and only about—someone watching you walk or run and evaluating your feet and your shoes.
How many of you have purchased an expensive pair of shoes after a salesperson in your local shoe shop store suggests a pair of shoes that are more stable, or more neutral, or more cushioned, or are the type that “forces” you to land a particular way. Voila! Your biomechanical problems are solved. This is what most people know and have come to accept as gait analysis, but in reality is only a small part of the overall equation.
What Is a Gait Analysis?
At Spinal and Sports Care, when we conduct a gait analysis, your feet are only one small piece of your biomechanical puzzle. What happens to your feet is merely part of a holistic, whole body, integrated movement pattern.
Gait analysis aims to uncover precisely how your body is moving, from your feet up. Every activity, even standing still, represents a unique movement pattern. That pattern is bred from your habits and lifestyle, as well as your body’s mobility, stability, flexibility and strength. Every action you take—running stride, pedal stroke, swim stroke, etc.—represents that unique movement pattern. If your movements include compensations (and they likely do), gait analysis can pinpoint the areas in the body where these losses of efficiency originate. Athletes get into trouble when major compensation, which often leads to true dysfunction, continues for extended periods of time resulting in pain and injury.
How Compensations Affect Your Gait
Compensations in the body lead to imbalance around the joints. The larger prime movers (hamstrings, glutes, quads, etc.) become less active, and end up contributing less than their fair share of the work in moving us around. The smaller/tiny stabilising muscles are forced to step in (compensate) and do the work of the larger, more powerful prime movers. The stabilisers are overloaded day after day, game after game. Over time they end up, in a word, fried. The wear and tear on the stabilisers greatly compromises recovery and your ability to train consistently. In short, this scenario is an injury waiting to happen. We see it over and over again.
Discovering the inefficiencies and compensations unique to you is the power of what true gait analysis can reveal. Once uncovered, these inefficient and costly “energy leaks” that rob you of power and free speed can be addressed. This cannot be overstated: Improper, unbalanced movement limits your ultimate potential and puts you at an exponentially-increased risk of injury.