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Choosing the correct footwear - Gate Analysis

It goes without saying that when you’re participating in your favorite sport, the correct footwear is essential – so why are so many of you still getting it wrong? Of course incorrect footwear can lead to the common complaints of friction and inflammation, blisters, sore feet etc, but perhaps what you didn’t know is that having the correct footwear can have a major impact on other parts of your body including your legs, hips and back as well as having an effect on the way you move, walk and run and ultimately your chances of injury. This is where a Gait analysis comes in...

For those of you who think Gait is something we use to get through the garden fence– Gait is the manner in which our body travels from one point to another. Gait Analysis therefore is a process of analysing the way we move to assess our biomechanics, running techniques, positioning of the feet, distribution of weight and all sorts of interesting stuff.

So why do we do these tests? Well the way our body moves when we’re walking and running (or skipping and hopping for that matter) has impact on our likelihood of injury. Sufficient movement in the joints and muscles are important to ensure a good gait cycle. Gait analysis therefore can be used to identify any issues, deficiencies, irregularities in our gait which could lead to potential injuries.

The process of performing a gait analysis involves the user walking or running on a treadmill while the professional – usually a physiotherapist, observes the movement in the feet ankles, knees and hips. The professional often records the process so that they are able to analyse the gait cycle in more detail using slow motion and freeze frames.

Pronation in particular is an area which is analysed during Gait analysis and has a big impact on footwear choices. Pronation is the amount in which a foot turns inwards when taking a step and acts as a cushion for the body. Neutral pronation, in which the foot rolls inwards to allow your bodies weight to spread evenly across the front of the foot is known as the most effective for running as it allows the lower limbs to remain stable whilst supporting the body.

Overpronation happens when your foot rolls inwards too much meaning your bodies weight is spread unevenly, applying more pressure to the big toe and ultimately the bones, muscles and tendons and is often related to people with flatter feet. This commonly also leads to putting your knee and hip out of alignment through the leg turning inwards and can also result in Achilles tendinopathy and stress fractures. Sufferers of overpronation benefit from wearing stability trainers to stabilise the excessive movement and to keep the foot and leg aligned. In-soles can also be inserted into the trainer in order to restrict foot movement.

When the feet do not roll inwards sufficiently it is known as Underpronation. This results in excessive pressure on the outside of the foot and again leads to insufficient support of the body’s weight and can be another cause of stress fractures. This is usually related to people wither higher arches on the feet. The best remedy for this would be some good shock absorbing trainers to help cushion the body’s weight whilst minimising stress on the lower legs and back. Again, in-soles such as Orthotics can be use to realign the foot to ensure that more of a Neutral pronation is obtained.

Although Gait Analysis is usually carried out by physiotherapists and podiatrists, the process is now becoming more common in specialist running and sporting stores with staff trained and qualified to perform gait analysis on the public. So if you think you might be wearing incorrect footwear or have any queries about your gait, we would highly recommend this short test to minimise your chances of injury.