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Are you a beautiful runner? No, this isn’t related to how many heads you turn as you jog by, but rather by the fluidity and ease of your running style. It’s having a stride that makes it seem as though your feet never touch the ground; allowing you to run effortlessly forever. This efficient motion is, however, so much more than aesthetically pleasing to the naked eyes. It relates to having optimal biomechanics, or the patterns of movements that our muscles and bones take to get from one point to another. If there is a restriction somewhere along the chain, our bodies adapt and find a way to get around it. This may not be an issue in the short-term, but is in the long-term as running is such a repetitive movement. By using some of these compensation strategies every time our bodies hit the pavement, it can result in overcompensation of structures not designed to deal with that repetition and impact. Over time, this can lead to the development of those dreaded overuse injuries such a plantar fasciitis, runner’s knee, shin splints, etc, and most runners cringe even at the mention of these injuries. Those previously mentioned restrictions along the ideal path of motion can, thankfully, be corrected in many cases. This holds true for restrictions related to, for example, muscle strength and flexibility imbalances, improper footwear, poor bone-on-bone glides and scar tissue adhesions. The limitation can often be picked up by a visual inspection while you run.

You may have heard of something called “running gait analysis” and immediately put it off thinking that it sounds intense and could only be for elite runners. The truth is that it’s for everyone! It’s for those who:

  • start running for the first time and are not sure if they are doing it right or where to begin
  • have ever had a running-related injury in the past.
  • are currently suffering from running aches and pains
  • are smart individuals who want to take the preventative measures to ensure that they don’t get injured in the future

I have conducted this test on every type of active individual, from people training for ultramarathons to casual walkers who wanted their walking gait assessed. As a competitive runner myself, I have had a running gait analysis assessment conducted and have gained valuable knowledge about my strengths and weaknesses as they uniquely relate to my running style. I want to be a lifelong runner and I am happy to help you do the same.

So you might be wondering what a running gait assessment consists of. Basically, we break it down into three different components. Once we have an idea of your goals and potential existing injuries, we get you on the treadmill in our clinic. We then get you to walk and run at different paces and potentially up different inclines as we videotape you from behind and from the side. You just have to remember to run like nobody’s watching! If you aren’t much of a runner, don’t fear – we will not make you do an hour workout on the treadmill. Usually 5-10 minutes is all we need to get some good video footage of you running. The next part consists of an assessment of your lower extremity strength, flexibility and joint movements. This will give us an idea of what muscles are weak or where inflexibilities may lie.

With all of this information, we then sit down and point out abnormalities found in your running gait with the help of the video. We then discuss the muscular and bony limitations found during the hands-on assessment. More often than not, the findings from the two parts complete the puzzle. Gait abnormalities seen in the video, such as excessive heel whip, could be explained by findings in the biomechanical assessment, such as tight calf structures and/or weak hip muscles.

excessive-heel-whip

A crossover gait could also be the result of tight inner thigh muscles and/or weak outside hip muscles. All of this leads to the third and final component of the gait analysis. During this part, we look at all of my findings and determine a personalized home exercise program for you, which typically consists of a few strength and stretching exercises. These are designed to help address your imbalances and this often results in an improvement in the running form itself.  We will also provide education, as needed, regarding how to safely increase running mileage, specific injury tips and offer footwear recommendations. If you are injured at the time of the evaluation, we often recommend that you return for future Physiotherapy treatments so that we can deal with the injury as quickly as possible. If you are injury-free, we recommend working through your new individualized home exercise program for a month or so, as we will want an update on this at the end of the exercise program. We want to know how your running is going and at that point we can progress your exercise routine if it’s gotten too easy.
Increasing flexibility and strength is a process. A committed, conscious and repeated effort must be made in order to make the appropriate gains. You are looking at 6-10 weeks in order for true strength and flexibility changes to occur.dds

running-couple--winter

That sums up the basics of a running gait evaluation. If this interests you, please do not hesitate to book an appointment at our Thorncliffe clinic (403.275.7728), and book a session with me, Grace. The appointment usually takes 60 minutes. You will not be running for the entirety of that time.  If you have an injury at the time of the assessment please let us know. We can do the evaluation if you are injured as long as the injury itself isn’t forcing you to run differently due to the pain. Please bring your worn runners with you to the assessment. If you have brand new running shoes please bring an older pair as well as this gives me a better idea of the wear pattern of your shoes. Bring shorts and a t-shirt and we will provide the knowledge that can help you become a beautiful pain free runner!

Submitted By: Grace Kary, Physiotherapist

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