Gait assessment – what’s it all about?

As some of you will know from my recent YouTube video I took a run on the road for the first time a few weeks back. It was both empowering and terrifying all at the same time but the one thing it most definitely was was painful. I couldn’t believe the amount of pain I felt in my ankles, knees and hips from running on the road instead of the heathland – took me several days to recover and more than a few tears.

I’d already been to the GP before I started couch to 5k so I knew it wouldn’t be a physical reason causing this level of discomfort and it was suggested I looked at my running shoes instead.

I only started running a couple of months ago and like most people I didn’t want to pile lots of money into something I wasn’t sure I was going to continue with so I picked up a pair of Asics Patriots as my starter shoes. They were just £45 which made them really reasonable for a beginner and so far I’ve covered over 100km in them without any issues – until I ran on a road!

So this morning with great trepidation I conquered another first and set foot in a running shop. I was worried they’d laugh at me on sight and immediately identify me as someone that didn’t belong but they were the exact opposite – they were encouraging and polite and put up with all my daft questions without a single roll of the eyes.

I chose to go to Runners Need in Port Solent as I knew they offered gait assessment and also offered a wide range of shoes for a variety of budgets.  I took my lovely friend Emma with me for moral support – Emma is doing the Great South Run in a few weeks and wanted to make sure she was in the best shoes for the job. We took her little baby with us so while she was getting checked over I was on baby duty and got to enjoy cuddles while Emma did her bit on the treadmill. Something I should add to this review was how helpful the staff were with the pushchair, how they didn’t even blink and were nothing but helpful to having a tiny human in store. Those of you who have transported children into shops not meant for children will appreciate how rarely this happens.

I had no idea what to expect or what I’d need to do and I know many other people feel the same so the purpose of this blog is to let you know what happens, why you should go and how it’s nothing to be worried about.

What is Gait Assessment?

Put simply Gait Assessment is when you run on a treadmill and someone analyses your foot strike and your running position. In reality though it’s much more revealing than that as you’ll also find out about your foot position, your foot arches and your foot size. The foot size might be a surprise too – after all when was the last time you had your foot measured!

What do I need to bring?

The lovely Steve at Runners Need in Port Solent said to get your gait assessed you need to bring some shoes to run in. It doesn’t matter if they are your normal trainers, your current running shoes or running shoes you’ve covered hundreds of miles in and are falling apart – a lot can be told about your feet just from looking at the soles of the shoes alone. You’ll need something comfortable to run in for between 60 and 90 seconds on the treadmill – no skinny jeans!

How long will it take?

It took around 30-40 minutes for my assessment but I’m sure it could take much longer if you had enough time to try on shoes and redo your gait test in the new shoes. I told Steve that I had to be gone by a certain time (the school run waits for no one!) and he worked hard to accommodate us in the time we had. The actual running on the treadmill is only for 60 to 90 seconds at a time so you don’t need to be a runner of enormous ability to have your gait assessed.

How often should I have it done?

Steve recommended that I get checked every 18 months to 2 years. It’s not something you need to have all the time but your feet may change strike pattern if you increase your distance so it’s worth getting rechecked. He also said that life changes such as weight loss, weight gain or pregnancy can affect the way we run so those are also circumstances to get reassessed.

Is it not just a sales ploy to get you to buy new shoes?

I don’t think so. If it is it’s an awful lot of effort to go to on the chance you might buy a new pair of shoes!

What will it show me?

Firstly I had my current shoes looked at and I was told that they are neutral shoes which means they are designed for ‘normal’ feet with minimal pronation (when your feet roll inwards as you walk and run). He agreed with me that while my Asics had done me this far the lack of cushioning in them would make for potential issues going forward if I wanted to take my running back on tarmac.

He checked my feet out and said that my feet were quite wide with a normal arch but he could clearly see that my feet roll inwards when I was just standing. This meant my current Asics were unlikely to be offering me the right kind of support as they have no cushioning really.

Once my visual once over was done I hopped on the treadmill and he gradually increased the speed to 6mph and I ran for around 60 seconds he filmed my foot strike. Now there is something very odd about having someone film you while you are running but I was reassured to see it was only my feet being filmed which gave no room for me to complain about the jiggling or wiggling being on camera!

Steve then replayed my video back to me and said it was interesting to look at because in the 60 seconds I was running my heels didn’t hit the floor even once. Turns out I run on the balls of my feet which is why tarmac in my non-cushioned shoes don’t protect my feet that well and cause me so much pain.

He then pointed out the shoes which would be best for me and the price range I’d be looking at. I took a particular shine to the Brooks Glycerin 13‘s as not only do they have a higher heel to toe drop and suit my running needs but they are also very pretty and make me feel like I’d run faster in them!

I’d recommend that no matter where you are on your running journey you get your gait assessed. No matter if you are at on the sofa debating starting couch to 5k or if you are a seasoned runner it is so important to start with the right kit. If you run in the wrong shoes or with kit not suited to you you could risk injury which could cause long term damage.

I’d highly recommend going along to your local Runners Need as well. They have good range of shoes to fit all budgets as well as very well trained and knowledgeable staff.  They made my experience of being a rotund person in a haven of fitness and health much less painful than I would have expected and really encouraged me to continue.

In fact I may go as far as to say I actually enjoyed it…… another hurdle conquered and I’m looking forward to taking this confidence to my next run tomorrow.

One thought on “Gait assessment – what’s it all about?

  1. Mummy Ms memories says:

    i agree gait analysis should be done no matter what experience. I got mine done when I started running and it was the best thing I did. No shin splints or any other leg injuries (touch wood) since running compared to others who started at the same time. I did my gait analysis in jeans… Whoops!

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