Is there an ideal running style?

Gait analysis is often assessed in various settings. A scenario many of us could probably relate to is a quick go on the treadmill when being assessed for the ‘ideal’ running shoe. For the majority of us this often results in you being told we over pronate (foot rolls inwards towards your big toe) during stance phase (the time spent with your foot in contact with the ground) and that in order to stay injury free we need to purchase the correct running trainer to prevent this… 

So... is it just as simple as that?

Unfortunately not… gait analysis for runners is both a complex and highly skilled process. It requires an individualised assessment that relies upon a wide variety clinical reasoning with the evidence suggesting that just simply adopting a 'one size fits all approach' is not good enough. 

Most of you will be able to recognise all kinds of different running styles such as Paula Radcliffe’s ‘bobbing head’ or Michael Johnson’s ‘stiff back and short stride’… so the big question must be… should we try and change the way people run? Do we need to? 

The evidence based philosophy we follow here at Consortium is yes in certain cases… but only if it has a link to both symptoms and pathology. Therefore, if you are having no problems at all.. then you're running style is likely to be best left alone.

However, if you are experiencing problems or you are injured then the evidence over the past 10 years has begun to show that accurate gait analysis and modification of your gait can be a very useful tool in managing pain. This mostly relies on modification of load on the effected tissues. Accurate gait analysis and assessment is a complex process. There are numerous factors that need careful consideration. A rational decision must then be made to decide whether any of these factors relate to that individual’s injury/pathology.

A example of the factors that should be considered are listed below, these must be thoroughly analysed by a skilled therapist throughout the entire gait cycle for that individual:  

 Arm position

Trunk position

Pelvis position

Hip extension

Bodies centre of mass

Foot strike– Rear foot/Forefoot/Pronation/Supination

Foot/Ankle transition

Stride length

Stride width

Step rate

There are many conditions and injuries that can relate to running gait such as Achilles Tendinopathy, Patella Femoral Joint pain, Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (‘Shin splints’) and Iliotibial Band Syndrome amongst others (source).

So how does gait relate specifically to injuries? How do we go about correcting this?

As you can see there are many things to consider but with a thorough assessment and the use of video analysis all the factors listed above can be very closely observed and reasoned through to see if they do indeed relate to injury. These factors can then be adapted in order to aid recovery from injury. A good example of this is the cause of Patella Femoral Joint pain (pain at the front of the knee/knee cap). Many factors can theoretically contribute to this including increased knee flexion and the time spent in the stance phase, narrow stride width and over striding. Therefore, a way of addressing this problem could be to encourage an increase in step rate (to within acceptable boundaries as not to not cause other problems), this will reduce time you spend in stance phase, reduce your stride length and therefore reduce excess knee flexion and avoid overloading the patellofemoral joint (source) & (source).

This is just one example of how gait analysis can really help.  For more information, or if you think your running gait could be a contributing factor to your injury or any symptoms you are experiencing then please feel free to get in touch. One of our team will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have and provide guidance to whether gait assessment is right for you.

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading our blog… keep a look out for the next instalment!

Thanks for reading 

The Consortium Team