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Running, it's not just about the feet!

These days there are so many varieties of 'gait analysis' to choose from, whether observing a running gait with just a natural eye, using a force pressure plate to walk across, in-store running shop gait analysis, out-store running up the street style analysis, coach's eye and track work analysis and clinical running technique analysis. Read on for an insightful and quite possibly a highly contraversial explanation comparing the pros and cons. 

(This piece has been brought to you by ‘I’m going to try to remain as unbiased as possible!’) #harshbutfair

Eye ball

gait analysis

To observe someone running on a treadmill.
A good starting block to look at a running form, a big step up from testing things statically in a clinic. Mindful that the brain and eyes can only calibrate so much information at any given moment, chances being you’re missing more data than you’re capturing. Considering also that the brain doesn’t have a slow motion function, you could miss the most subtlest of movements that occur over a fraction of a second that is far more likely to be picked up filming and playback. 

  • Customer experience – 2/10
  • Data capture – 4/10
  • Cost – typically free

Summary – This service can work well if you’re a physio or a podiatrist who is specifically looking to track a particular behaviour. Ultimately, they could use your iPhone to help bring you into the picture of their findings. 


Pressure Plate

Walking over a pressure mat to provide digital feedback of your foot contact.
Excellent for tracking skeletal and muscular function from base of foot up – great visual feedback of foot related data for the clients. These pressure plate mats are typically used for walking and sometimes used for running if you have a sizable mat and a long enough room to have a good old run up to it.  As running incorporates a 'flight phase',  what goes up... must come down! Mindful of this, data can differ based on whether you walk on it or run on it. 

  • Customer experience – 7/10
  • Data capture  - 8/10
  • Cost – £120 - £150 + potential charge for orthotics
pressure plate

Summary – a high level comprehensive service of foot biomechanics ultimately to provide orthotic and trainer prescription. 


'In-store' running technique analysis

Filming you running on a treadmill in a sports shop.
A great ‘customer trust gaining experience’ filming your shoes as you run, perfect to assist with trainer suitability. With many shops not analysing you barefoot, you are vulnerable to being prescribed a running shoe based on your current running shoes performance ie: if you have an overly sized heel on the back of your shoe, it is likely to make contact with the ground first. Assumptions that you 'naturally' 'heel strike’ may find you leaving in a further over engineered shoe. This can also happen if you are running in a pair of 'exhausted' shoes. Lack of integrity could cause your foot to roll in or over, pronation shoes can therefore be perscribed too quickly.

Instore gait analysis
  • Customer experience 8/10
  • Data capture 4/10
  • Cost – free when buying a pair of trainers

Summary – a nice ‘technology’ treat for runners who would value from a little more customer service when buying a pair of shoes. This service would be 10 times better if they filmed you barefoot as a starting point. 


'Out-store' running technique analysis

Filming someone run up and down the high street in a pair of shoes.
A further nice ‘customer trust gaining experience’. However, limited to data capture loss every step you take further away from the camera. Your first step (being the closest to the camera) might bear little resemblance to your fifth or fifteenth step. You are pushing off from standing, balance and proprioception would be the main task that the body has to consider until you settle in an promote your true running form.
  • Customer experience 5/10
  • Data capture 4/10
  • Cost - free when buying a pair of trainers

Summary – A great customer service driven device, will give you a good feel for the shoe you are wearing in it’s most natural environment which is priceless in comparison to buying online. 


 

Tablet  / Coach's Eye gait analysis

Filming an athlete from a near distance running around a park or a track.
Commonly used for running coachs outside and away from gyms and shoe shops, ideal for watching you in your most natural form.  Great to observe pace, cadence, warm ups, cool downs, great if you have an experienced coach with a good eye for it.
  • Customer experience 5/10
  • Data capture 9/10
  • Cost – approx £120 - £130 + coaching sessions to follow

Summary – By far the best service to help you with drills, conditioning, warm ups, cool downs, to learn how an elite runner would prepare.

Tablet   / coaches eye gait analysis

Clinical Running Technique Analysis

Filming from multiple angles of your entire body whilst running. 
Calibrated and close up enough even to pick up the slightest of movements usually on a specialist treadmill designed to simulate outdoor running. Can play up to 6 variables of your running form (feet, knees, hips, lower back, upper back and shoulders, left and right sagittal (side!), with trainers, without trainers, with trainers with orthotics)
  • Customer experience 9/10
  • Data capture 9/10
  • Cost from £99 to £230

Summary – A belt and braces approach of your running form from head to toe, great for investigating plateaus, injuries and loss of performance. Plenty of reports and visual data.


 

In summary

All these services can greatly differ based on the experience of the professional working with you.  Don’t expect all clinical gait labs to give you the very best in feedback, don’t believe all running shops are flawed if they offer you a free trainer check. A good trusted professional would have a strong understanding of full body biomechanics and remain impartial to a one running style fits all approach. And although there will always be talk time about your feet and running shoes, it’s shouldn't end up monopolising the entire duration of your visit.

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