Gait Analysis for Runners
Written by Chance Kinney
Chance Kinney is the Director of Content Development at Fitted Running
I can’t remember which pair of shoes I bought when I first got into running a few years ago — and that’s a problem! Like a lot of fellow novice runners, I bought something online that looked like a pair of running shoes, threw them on, and hit the pavement. The pavement hit back, and everything hurt — shin splints, calf soreness, and quads that felt like they’d been on the wrong end of a meat tenderizer. But, that’s the price of getting into running, right?
Not necessarily. Turns out, running doesn’t (always) have to be painful. It all starts with getting into the right pair of running shoes for you, and odds are you’re not going to get into them by accident. That’s where the gait analysis comes in.
What is a gait analysis?
The gait analysis is a detailed look at the way you move when running to determine which running shoe is right for you, and it’s at the center of what we do at Fitted Running. Each shoe from each brand is purpose-built for a specific kind of runner, and if you don’t throw on the pair that makes sense for your situation, you could suffer from a lot of unnecessary pain down the road. We’re here to make sure that doesn’t happen.
You may have heard of the gait analysis before, and perhaps are imagining a treadmill and at least two people standing behind it, scribbling into notebooks as they look intently at your every step. Super fun for everyone, promise. It’s a legitimate way to do it, but a little outdated thanks to huge leaps forward in camera tech! Now that high-resolution, slow-motion video can be taken with a smartphone, it’s way easier to record a short video of someone running on a treadmill or on the sidewalk, then run it back in slow-motion to make sure we catch all those subtle movements made by the body while running.
Pronation, overpronation, or supination?
The word you’ll probably hear most in a gait analysis — pronation! When we’re running, we’re absorbing a lot of shock in the foot whenever we strike the ground. The foot and ankle move a little to support the body before pushing it off to the next step. There needs to be a little flexibility for the foot and ankle to properly absorb shock, so if we see the ankle turn in a little bit during the gait analysis, that’s a good thing!
As long as the leg is straight and aligned when it’s weight-bearing, we’re in business. Overpronation happens when the ankle turns too far inward, pushing the leg out of alignment. That can lead to a whole range of injuries, with problems that can even move up to the lower back! Not ideal. In rarer cases, we’ll see something called supination. You can think of it as the opposite of overpronation — the ankle rolls out or stays too stiff when weight is placed on it, putting too much pressure on the outer part of the feet. Either way, we’re seeing misalignment and shock that isn’t being evenly absorbed, problems that can cause a whole host of injuries if they go uncorrected.
Neutral and Stability Running Shoes
So, how do we correct those problems? Shoes! In general, there are two types of running shoes — neutral and stability. While stability sounds like it would always be a good thing, it’s not well suited for what we call neutral runners, or runners who have a healthy amount of pronation in their gait. Traditionally, stability shoes have a denser piece of material in the medial (inner) side of the shoe that doesn’t compress as much when weight is put on it, which helps nudge the ankles of runners who overpronate back into alignment. Neutral shoes have the same density of cushion all the way around the shoe, since no correction needs to be made to the gait of neutral runners.
But, the running shoe game is changing fast — in recent years, we’ve seen a lot of new stability shoes using new technology to make them lighter and more fun to use. There are also varying levels of stability available depending on how much you overpronate. If that all seems overwhelming, don’t worry! That’s why at Fitted Running, we take the gait analysis process so seriously — it’s how we make sure that we’re getting you into running shoes suited for you and your goals.
Having a Conversation
Maybe above all, a gait analysis is a conversation. So much of what a gait analysis can tell us needs to be supported by what you tell us — that’s why we ask you a few key questions before taking a look at your gait. Knowing that you’ve had a serious injury in the past (or that you’re coming back from one now) can completely change the conclusions we draw from your body’s biomechanics during the gait analysis. And when it comes to picking a pair of shoes for you, knowing where you’re running and for how long is huge. If you’re speeding through 5Ks on non-technical trails, you could probably use a lighter, faster shoe. Planning to pound out a road marathon? You’re going to want a little more cushion. Well, a lot. A lot more cushion.
The conversation shouldn’t end when you buy a pair of shoes, either. That’s why at Fitted Running, we have Shoe Consultants ready to answer any questions you have throughout the life of your shoes. We’re here to help you make little tweaks to your form and routine to help make sure you get the most out of your new pair of shoes. And, when that pair is worn out, we’ll be more than happy to start the whole process over again with you — you’re going to keep growing and changing as a runner, and we’re here for it.
Run with Us
Trust me, getting a gait analysis is worthwhile! I should know, because it totally changed running for me. After all that pain and soreness from the running shoes I picked at random, I went to get my gait analyzed. I found out that I hadn’t actually been buying bad running shoes, they just hadn’t been the sort I needed. I got matched up with shoes that made sense for me, got back out on the pavement, and I’ve been running strong ever since. At Fitted Running, we want to make sure every runner has that kind of experience, no matter where they live and run! Whether you run for fun or are preparing for an upcoming race, give our gait analysis a try — not just your feet, but your whole body will thank you!