Walking Gait Explained for Beginners Like Me

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Are you someone who wants to run or walk that extra mile? Well, checking your gait is important, for many of us, walking or running does not come naturally. We are prone to slumped backs, cramped necks, while we sit and toil in our workspace! Unfortunately not every shoe fits our needs. Many people when running or walking have hurt themselves due to the lack of knowledge. Even I have failed at this by wearing the wrong shoes for many years. So what can we do? Well, we can go and check our running gait, just like I did.

Gait Analysis

Gait Analysis is carried out to better understand the abnormalities in your gait cycle or in simpler terms, evaluating the manner in which you walk or run. For newbies, this is very useful, as it helps you understand your walking or running stance. Don’t worry you will get the hang of it by reading on further.

This data helps an individual select the right shoes, which is the most essential piece when it comes to walking or running. As proper shoes ensure that you do not end up hurting your muscles but rather enjoy exercise by simply moving around. All in the comfort you deserve.

How is Gait Analysis Performed?

There are various methods of gait analysis which you can carry out at home. They are very basic but they can help you understand exactly what gait you have. The tests are the wet foot test and checking an older shoe. You can also get more advanced gait analysis carried out, however, you would have to visit a sports running store or visit a podiatrist. Which can be time-consuming but I assure you it is worth it.

One of the best methods of checking your running gait is by going to a local sports store where a professional can carry out your gait analysis properly. Personally, this is highly recommended, as this helped me hugely when I was visiting London I decided to book myself in with the Asics store and get a full gait analysis carried out.

This is by far the best method and it was all free. They give you a full consultation and one of the members of staff even help you pick out a shoe which is ideal for your gait. This was where I got my first supinating shoe.

So first and foremost, a specialist takes you into an area with a treadmill. They get you to stand on the treadmill and walk and run for a few minutes. Whilst a video camera records your stance and gait.

Then the specialist takes a look at the way your ankles, feet, knees, and hips move in a more advanced setting. As a video camera is set up behind the treadmill to record your every movement.

This is then is later analyzed by a piece of software. Then the specialist can then carefully analyze the way you walk or run and can provide you with a comprehensive report. Which will ultimately tell you exactly what gait you have, which can make your walking and running experience far better.

If you are unable to visit a specialist or podiatrist. Then you always have the option of carrying out a few of the simple gait analysis tests mentioned above. As these tests will help you determine if you do require shoes for supination or pronation.

Type of Pronation

So what is measured in the Gait analysis? The key factor measured is the degree of Pronation. In other words, pronation means the natural inward roll of the foot when the heel strikes the ground when running or walking. This roll optimally distributes the force of impact.

Different Gaits

There are three well-known walking and running gaits to help categorize each and every single person. These are:

Different Right Foot Strikes
Different Right Foot Strikes

Overpronation – This is where the foot roll is excessive and it is common amongst runners with flat feet.

Normal (Neutral) Pronation – The Neutral foot strike is considered to be the best gait for normal runners. As having a neutral pronation helps absorb shock better and relieves pressure on joints.

Underpronation or Supination – This is where the feet don’t roll inward too much as the runners tend to have a high rigid arch.

Overpronation

Overpronators usually have flat feet with lower arches, however, many individuals suffer from overpronation.  This is the most common gait amongst runners around the world.

You can determine if you have overpronating feet when you take a look at your running gait. If you go for a run and you realize that your foot is rolling in more than it should, then you know you have an overpronating gait. This type of pronation does not cause injury but it can lead to major problems further down the line if the corrective measures are not taken into consideration.

Right Foot Overpronation Strike
Right Foot Strike without and with Shoe

How Overpronation Can Cause Injuries

If a person is an overpronator then their foot rolls inward excessively. So, every time they go for a run, with each strike they take their foot flattens, which fails to absorb the impact. This injures the soft tissues and muscles (muscles, tendons, and ligaments) of the leg and causes a lot of unnecessary strain on them. Hence, over time, this stress increases considerably which can lead to further serious injuries.

Potential Injuries:

  • Shin splints
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Knee pain
  • Heel spurs

Shoes for Pronation and Overpronation

Before you decide to purchase a pair of shoes for overpronation, make sure to check your running and walking gait. If you do find that you overpronate, then buy appropriate running shoes. Overpronators require low arch or flat feet support.

Many running shoes have hardened materials in their midsole, which provides extra support along the foot arch and prevents the foot from rolling further in. These shoes increase stability and motion control. If you are looking for walking shoes then make sure that the shoes you choose, have ample support throughout the arch and heel of the foot.

Supination

This gait usually occurs in people who have high foot arches. Just like myself.

Supination (underpronation) is caused when the foot strikes the ground with little or no movement inwards. This has quite an effect on the foot as it transmits shock waves throughout the lower leg. In addition, the rigid arch does not allow the impact to transfer towards the big toe.

Right Foot Supination Strike
Right Foot Strike with and without Shoe

How Supination Can Cause Injuries

When a person suffers from supination, the tendency of the foot to absorb the shock is reduced. This causes further stress on the muscles, tendons and the ligaments of the lower leg.

Potential Injuries:

  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Shin splints
  • Ankle strain

I have faced a few of these and I just thought maybe it’s my body. But I quickly found out, it is not normal and the issue can be addressed. If I was willing to take some time to look into it.

Shoes for Supination

When selecting a pair of shoes for supination, choose them carefully. They are not just expensive shoes. They are designed to help you reduce the shock absorption when running or walking.

In order to address this issue correctly, you need extra cushioning throughout the shoe along with high arch support to have the best run possible. This extra cushioning in the shoes allows enhanced shock absorption too. Trust me its something you need if you are a beginner at running like I am.

For those who prefer walking over running; durability, comfort and better arch support are key factors when selecting your walking shoes. Manufacturers have come up with remarkable walking shoes for supination that reduces pain and offer greater grip when you walk.

Neutral Pronation

Neutral pronation occurs when the foot strikes the ground and the foot rolls inward in a controlled manner. This helps in balancing the distribution of body weight along with helping the foot better absorb the impact when running. In this specific gait, the ankle remains aligned as the foot strikes the ground. This neutral gait is seen to be the best as it avoids injuries when walking and running. My good old friend Nikola is very lucky she a normal probating gait.

Neutral Pronation Strike
Right Foot Strike with and without Shoe

Potential Injuries

With neutral pronation, the chances of injury are very low when walking or running. However, you may still get strains throughout the leg if you don’t warm up properly.

Shoes for Neutral Pronation

For a neutral running gait, many runners try shoes with increased ground contact. These neutral running shoes offer the best support and comfort. As they have maximum cushioning and stability, these shoes are perfect for runners with natural pronation.

They do not have motion control within the shoes and they tend to be lighter than other options. This enables faster movements and allows the runner to feel very light on their feet when wearing them. This is ideal for Nikola as she has a wider array of choices when she’s looking to buy a pair of running shoes than I do.

Prevention and Treatment

InsolesBoth overpronation and underpronation are simply mechanical issues with the way you walk and run and are easy to fix. However, it is advisable to perform a running gait analysis. The analysis allows you to understand your gait type and helps you fix it with the perfect footwear. There are also orthotic inserts available to help aid your pronating feet. However,  a good pair of shoes can help you in the long term to prevent any further damage to both your muscles and tendons.

How to Prepare your Body for a Walk or a Run

Although you may suffer from various degrees of pronation, always remember that you must prepare your body for a walk or a run. Always start off with a light warm-up jog, which will help prepare your muscles and tendons for any sport or intensive workout.

Secondly, carry out exercises to help strengthen your legs, to cope with the long walks or runs. Exercises such as squats, calf raises, and leg press will help you considerably. Last but not least, make sure you warm-down properly which will ensure your muscles and feet don’t hurt after your long walks and runs.

These are important I have learned the hard way and I would advise you to learn from my mistakes. A few changes can help you in the long run (no pun intended).

How to Select Footwear based on Gait Analysis

So when you are selecting a pair of shoes, make sure you know whether you will need an overpronating, underpronating or a pair of neutral running shoes.

Having footwear that fits properly is very important. Let’s be honest you wouldn’t want to run or walk in shoes that are too tight. As we all know they can become uncomfortable very quickly and can cause your muscles unnecessary stress.

Another piece of advice I can give you is.

Don’t purchase a pair of shoes that are too loose as you will end up damaging your toes which could lead to unwanted bruising and blisters. This can easily happen if you’re not too fussy when it comes to buying the correct size. I know of this mistake as a sale can always tempt me into buying a shoe I like but doesn’t fit me as it should.

Just don’t do it.

Remember to make sure you try your new pair of shoes with a pair of socks that you would wear when you do decide to take them out for a spin. But, don’t forget that a pair of tight shoes won’t end up stretching to accommodate your feet after a few times of wearing them.

So, choose the right shoe for your gait. Try to make sure that you like the look of them, and most importantly that you enjoy wearing them.

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