Gait Analysis: The Key to Athletic Shoe Selection

gait-analysisPerformance on the track or trail is far more than simply walking into a shoe retailer and selecting a style. How you run – your gait – is as important as where you run, and the pros at the area’s most notable shoe establishments and training venues are experts in analyzing gait for best performance and minimal injury, for each type of runner.

In a gait analysis, you can expect to be asked questions about your running or walking distances and frequencies, your training goals, the surface you run on most often, your regular mileage and any injury history. You may want to bring in your old shoes, which can help the fitter in the selection process.

The goal, of course, is to increase your speed and stamina. This all comes down to the gait cycle, determined by observing the biomechanics of the foot in motion. Kimmi Van Der Veer, store manager for Fit2Run on Main Street in downtown Sarasota, notes that gait analysis demonstrates how a runner’s individual body mechanics operate.

“At Fit2Run, our process starts with a measurement of both feet and a scan on our iStep machine,” she explains. “The iStep tells us about the arch-type of our guest, whether they have a high, low or medium arch. This helps us to determine if an orthotic is ideal for the guest and also gives us an opportunity to discuss injuries and injury prevention. We then move to the treadmill for a video-taped running or walking session of the guest in motion. Our goal is to replicate their usual running or walking conditions as much as possible. Afterwards, our trained associates analyze the slow motion recording using zFlo Gait Analysis to determine how much pronation that individual has; for example, do their ankles roll inward, called overpronation, outward, called supination or are they a neutral runner with minimal pronation.”

Michael Briggert at Studio South in Sarasota has worked with runners for over two decades. When fitting a running or walking shoe, he looks at the repeated movements of the runner while running forward on a treadmill. Is the arch dropped, are the sides even, is the distance between heel strike consistent?

“In my gait analyses, I look for an equal knee lift, any tilt to the hips, unequal stride,” he says. “I want to see a nice, repeatable cadence. I’ll watch the movement from behind, then offer a tool box of drills and exercises to help them overcome any imbalances or weaknesses. The goal is, of course, to increase performance, but the overall goal is to reduce injury.”

David Jackson, owner of New Balance Sarasota and New Balance University Park and Fleet Feet Sports Sarasota, says “When someone comes into the store, they are greeted warmly, given a cold bottle of water, and then we listen. Next is a gait analysis and spend as much time as necessary with that customer. Appropriate footwear is recommended and the customer leaves happy. Making our guests happy with my continued fit expertise as a pedorthist is the key to my continued involvement with New Balance.”

He notes that wearing a shoe during the analysis will alter the gait. He advises against an over-supported shoe, and notes that his staff does not use treadmills in analyzing gait. “We want to see our customers walking barefoot, then we scan the arch, width, marginal, range of motion and biomechanics to determine the best choices,” he says.

True gait analysis is not a generic exercise, but is a scientifically-based and technically- precise process. It is highly individualized, and reveals a lot about how you will hold up to training, performance and injury prevention.