A running gait analysis is a process of analyzing an individual’s technique, form, and mechanics while running. The process is typically performed on a treadmill and involves assessing various parts of a runner’s stride including foot strike, foot pronation, cadence, posture, and vertical oscillation along with numerous other factors.
You may have had a running form analysis in the past without realizing. The process is performed by trained specialists, coaches, and is even performed in numerous running stores to help assess proper shoe fitting.
The analysis is either performed in a 2 dimensional or 3 dimensional variation. A 2D gait assessment involves analyzing the individual’s running form in a 2 dimensional perspective. This requires the specialist to take videos of your form in each plane of motion. The videos can be used to assess each part of the running gait in each specific plane of motion.
A 3 dimensional gait assessment involves analyzing a runner’s movements from a three-dimensional perspective, typically using multiple high-speed cameras and specialized software. This analysis can break down each plane of motion all at once during the recording and will provide a greater level of detail.
Why Would Someone Get a Running Gait Analysis?
A running gait analysis can be beneficial to almost all runners. If we think about other athletes across various sports, many athletes spent a majority of their training time perfecting technique and form. This includes shooting a free throw in basketball, pitching/throwing in baseball, or even serving in tennis.
With distance runners, most of us were never taught how to properly run! Think about the last time you saw a video of yourself running. Probably most of you never have or haven’t in a few years! I can even guarantee that we all look much different than we think we do when we’re running! Have you ever looked at race photos and wondered why you look so weird?
If you are new to running, you may be the best candidate to have a running gait analysis. Research has shown that novice runners show larger kinematic movement and kinetic parameters in the ankle and hip when compared to experienced runners. Additionally, having 0-2 years of running experience was found to be a strong risk factor for a greater risk of injury.
What are the Benefits to Having a Running Gait Analysis?
The goal of a running gait analysis is to identify any issues or inefficiencies in a runner’s form that may be contributing to pain, injury, or reduced performance. Based on the results of the analysis, the specialist or coach may recommend specific exercises or adjustments to the runner’s form to improve their technique and prevent future problems.
These “issues or inefficiencies” are any extra movements in your running form that go against forward motion. These extra movements mean that you are wasting energy (reducing performance potential) and adding extra load onto certain muscles and tissue (increasing the risk for future injury).
For example, studies have shown that for every 1 degree increase in a “pelvic drop” there was an 80% increase in the likelihood for an injury. As I mentioned previously, extra and unnecessary movements can overload surrounding tissues and eventually lead to tissue breakdown.
What is the Specialist Looking for During an Analysis?
There are numerous aspects that a specialist or coach is analyzing during the running gait assessment including joint angles, vertical oscillation, stride length, cadence, etc. The amount of information you can gather from an analysis can be overwhelming.
I want to share with you the top parameters that I look for when I perform a running gait analysis on patients.
- Pelvic Drop: When looking at a runner from behind, you want to look at the level of the hips. Ideally the right and left hip should be almost parallel to the ground when a runner is standing on one leg. A significant angle of drop between the hips while a runner is standing on one leg would indicate a pelvic drop. As mentioned before, a pelvic drop increases the likelihood of injury and reduces running efficiency
- Foot Placement: When looking at a runner from the side, it is important to look at the placement of your foot when it hits the ground. There is a lot of current debate on the difference between heel striking and forefoot striking. Regardless of foot strike, runners need to be careful of not overstriding. Overstriding places a significant amount of extra force throughout the legs. If you are landing with your foot too far out in front of your center of mass, you are breaking your forward momentum!
- Trunk Lean: When looking from the side, every runner should have a few degrees of a forward lean while running. This forward lean allows us to use gravity to help propel us forward. Running up too upright and tall means that you are not using free potential energy and you are having to use more muscle energy to propel yourself forward.
- Knee Drive: When looking at a runner from the side, every runner should be bringing their knees up and forward to help engage their glutes. The glutes are the biggest muscles in our legs and are crucial in helping us move forward efficiently. A low knee drive means that you are not using free elastic return of the glute muscles and therefore will have to use more energy with each step.
If you think you may be struggling with any of these aspects of your running form, check out the video below on the top 3 running form mistakes that I’ve found in the clinic with drills you can try at home.
To see more running videos, including what a Running Analysis looks like, visit our YouTube channel here.
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Quan W, Ren F, Sun D, Fekete G, He Y. Do Novice Runners Show Greater Changes in Biomechanical Parameters? Appl Bionics Biomech. 2021 Jan 4;2021:8894636. doi: 10.1155/2021/8894636. PMID: 33488769; PMCID: PMC7801088.
Bramah C, Preece SJ, Gill N, Herrington L. Is There a Pathological Gait Associated With Common Soft Tissue Running Injuries? Am J Sports Med. 2018 Oct;46(12):3023-3031. doi: 10.1177/0363546518793657. Epub 2018 Sep 7. PMID: 30193080.
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