Running Gait Analysis

By STEPHEN REGENOLD

The intricacies of the human body in motion — muscles flexing, joints hinging, cells powering a system of anatomical thrust — is a feat of cosmic proportion, a biological achievement where Newtonian laws and the limits of locomotion mix to move a beating, breathing form through space and time.

Some people just call it running.

On a treadmill earlier this year in Boulder, Colo., I paced alone in the audience of an exercise physiologist as a runner long on quest for the perfect stride. Like many casual runners, I have worked to refine my technique and running style. I train with a heart-rate monitor and know the type of shoe that fits my foot.

Running Gait Analysis photo.jpg

A gait analysis can put a runner in the right footwear for their stride type

But despite training thousands of hours over the years and completing a half-dozen marathons, I have never sought more than the basic advice on my body’s method for plodding forward on a plane.

Thus the test in Boulder.

The procedure, a $350 gait analysis at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine, involved a clinical exam, stop-motion video, and software that calculated angulations in my hips, ankles and knees. My assessor, Tim Hilden, an exercise physiologist, mixed a thorough medical evaluation with time spent observing me sweat and run on a treadmill.

“This test gives amateur athletes the type of treatment often reserved for the pros,” Hilden said.

Running Gait Analysis.jpg

The author on a treadmill in Boulder

Basic gait-analysis tests are offered for free or at a low cost at running shops across the country. I investigated a few examples near my home in Minneapolis. Run on a treadmill at a shop like StartLine in Minnetonka, Minn., and a salesperson can try and see from your stride what type of shoe you should wear. “We watch your stride and listen to the sound of the shoe as you run,” said Monica Wenmark, owner of StartLine.

At TC Running Company, a shop in Eden Prairie, Minn., Kurt Decker asks to see customers’ used shoes to discern patterns on the tread, which reveal stride habits. “Wear on the sole never lies,” Decker said.

More in-depth, Gear West, a shop in Long Lake, Minn., charges $25 for time with a contracted physical therapist. The shop has a short indoor track and tests a runner’s balance while standing, hip alignment, posture, and stride. It is a half-hour analysis that includes an assessment of past injuries or pain, current training regimens, and fitness goals.

continued on next page. . .

Posted by bmack - 07/03/2009 10:02 AM

Interestingly enough you have no mid-line stability. Your hip flexors are fried and tight, which is what the picture you posted is telling us. That won’t allow any of the things your physiologist pointed out to work themselves out.

Posted by Stephen - 07/05/2009 03:36 PM

The type of testing you have been evaluated on, is very limiting. The greatest problem with running on a “machine” compared to “real” running is that different muscles are being emphasised causing running mechanics to be very different. Runners, and this includes everyone from 100m sprinters to marathoners, learn to drive the body forward with the hips and hamstrings. One must pull the body forward with the hamstrings, drive the hips forward into a nuetral position and apply downward force with the feet. The treadmill does not allow for these mechanics to function properly. Treadmill running emphasises the quads over the hammies, the motor driven rubber belt pulls your feet back not allowing downward force and your hips are pull back behind nuetral position causing the body to lean too far forward. This can be interpreted as tight hip flexors. If your hip flexors aren’t tight now just stay on the treadmill and they certainly will be. All these factors cause a very deceptive analysis of biomotor patterns. As for mid line stability, very few runners will show good stability on a treadmill for all the same reasons mentioned above. The only real evaluation on body mechanics is whether the runner over rotates or under rotates. The best method is to videotape real running from many angles and then proceed with the disection of mechanics.

Posted by Stephen Regenold - 07/05/2009 08:45 PM

Stephen — I will say it did feel pretty unnatural on the treadmill during that test. I would like to get the same evaluation running outdoors. Even at Gear West, where I took another gait test, I ran only on a 40-foot-long track. Never felt like I hit my natural stride on that short length. In truth, the gait tests I took only gave me a hint as to what my body does (and what type of shoe I should wear). As the article hints at, I am still in search of the “perfect stride.” I am open to doing other gait tests as opportunities come up. For now, I am running mostly in a semi-curved, neutral shoe with minimal midsole/padding. Same shoe type I ran in before all these tests.

Posted by Rick Cleary - 07/10/2009 12:18 PM

Stephen, I noticed nothing was mentioned in your article about stride rate and the benefits of monitoring it. Running Formula by Jack Daniels: “The main disadvantage of this slower turnover is that the slower you take steps, the longer you spend in the air, and the longer you’re in the air, the higher you displace your body mass and the harder you hit the ground on landing.” By increasing your stride rate, therefore, you not only improve your ability to maintain a faster pace, but may also reduce your risk of injury.”
An effective way to measure your stride rate for the duration of every workout is by using a nifty little device called the Shoe Odometer. I’m getting great feedback from runners on their improved stride rate by using the Shoe Odometer.

Posted by ProGait - 11/23/2009 07:16 AM

Gait Analysis is fascinting. The advice and information you receive from a Gait Analysis is invaluable and it really can improve the way that you run and walk.
Good luck with your quest for the perfect stride. Great Post!

Posted by Stability Analysis - 11/29/2009 02:49 AM

There are definite limits to running on a tread-mill as compared to real-life situations. Gait analysis is still useful, but there needs to be a more realistic testing strategy.

Posted by Andrew - 08/11/2010 10:26 PM

Stephen, could you please contact me at andy.t.fritz@gmail.com? Not stephen Regenold, but the first Stephen who commented. I am very interested in hearing more about what you have to say about treadmill running and it’s mechanics. Thanks!

Posted by Co - 04/02/2013 03:50 PM

I actually found your page while looking for another person to offer gait analysis. I was out at Gear West x 3 and prices have been rising (eval is now $40 and shoes are exorbitant plus $40 insoles). I don’t necessarily feel like my injuries have been addressed or improved, though I can say the shoes do feel good. Wondering if there are other options where a PT, exercise physiologist or sports med doc can do a gait analysis in the TC.

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