Running gait analysis in Wandsworth
Unfortunately, there is little evidence that gate retraining impacts injury prevention, training or performance. However, we must remember that scientific research is often behind or lacking in areas where we have strong suspicions and anecdotal evidence that supports an intervention is effective. It’s also important to remember that there is no one size fits all approach to running gait and gait retraining needs to be based on an individual approach. For example, not everyone should forefoot strike, and if you are not suffering from a running injury then changing your running style may not be worthwhile.
Is there an ideal running gait?
U.K. athletics does promote a template for endurance running. This includes a tall running posture (not to forward flexed in the trunk), relaxed shoulders and efficient backward arm swing. Foot strike should happen close to your centre of mass, and the knee should be slightly flexed at initial contact with a near to vertical shin. There should also be mineral lateral movement in the trunk or pelvis with no medial collapse of the landing knee or drop of the opposite hip.
One of the easiest ways to assess gate is to run on a treadmill and film yourself from behind. Using your smart phone film roughly 15 seconds of yourself from behind, making sure the whole-body head to toe is in short. Then film another 15 seconds focusing on just the lower limbs at foot level. Lastly, film 15 seconds of your running pattern from the side, making sure in all three shots that you are centred in the footage. You should also count your step rate for one minute so we can work out how many foot strikes you have per minute. Then using slow motion and analysing the running footage we can assess your gate looking for overall running kinematics, foot strike and transition, stride length and step rate and step width.
From the side view, we are looking primarily for overstriding. Are you landing with excessive foot dorsiflexion and with your foot too far in front of your centre of mass? This running pattern will put more stress on your tibialis anterior, tibia, knee and hip joint overloading the soft tissues. From behind, we are looking at your pelvis and if there is a drop of the opposite hip when you contact the floor, if the landing leg has medial collapse at the knee, and if there is no gap between your knees at midstance. We are also looking to see how you contact the floor and transition through your foot through to toe off. Hip collapse and pronation can increase the load on the patella femoral joint, iliotibial band, and gluteus medius tendon overloading these tissues. It may also overload the posterior tibialis and tibia leading to tendinopathy, medial tibial stress syndrome and stress fracture.
Should we change running gate?
This is a hot debate and there is an emphasis on changing people’s gate to a forefoot strike in the belief it will increase speed and running efficiency. However, it’s important to remember that 90% of runners running at endurance speed are heel strikers. The saying goes if it ain’t broke don’t try to fix it. However, if there are running gate abnormalities identified in your analysis, this is where we would focus on making changes.
There is no difference in injury rate between forefoot and heel strike runners and also no clear performance benefit had been noted. But it is important to note that forefoot running loads the calf muscle and Achilles with each foot strike which may increase the risk of calf strain and Achilles tendon pain.
If we are going to change running gait the following tips are most effective:
One of the most effective changes in running gait is simply to shorten your stride length by increasing running cadence by 5-10%. This can reduce heel strike and the load through the ankle, tibia and knee, offload the patella femoral joint.
Is there an ideal step rate? This would need to be assessed in your gait analysis.160-175 step per minute is not unusual.
Ensuring an optimum step width. Too narrow a running gait leads to increased hip adduction on the stance leg. This increased PFJ and ITB load. It also increases over pronation which can stress the posterior tibialis and tibia (think MTSS and stress fracture)
The key is to work with a running coach or physio skilled in gait analysis to assess your gait and instead of focusing on changing foot strike – focus of stride length, step rate and step width.