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Info of Running Gait

Let’s start off by describing running gait: this is the way in which we run, coupled with the movement pattern of our feet from the moment we make contact with the floor to the moment we leave it. Your running gait is determined by numerous factors such as:

– Age
– Weight
– Cultural background
– Muscle flexibility
– Joint mobility
– Injury history
– and last but not least: Foot strike.

Your running gait is unique – it varies per individual – and can be influenced by prescribed insoles (orthotics) and poorly-fitted running shoes. It can also explain why some injuries occur – and keep reoccurring. It can change, either improve or worsen. Such adjustments take place over a long period of time as the 7 points mentioned above change.

Determining your own running gait is difficult if you’re not sure what you’re looking for but you can do a few simple tests while looking at yourself in the mirror. This will at least point you in the right direction.

Let’s test your running gait. Stand in front of a mirror. Place your feet about 20cm apart. Now close your eyes, stand tall and get yourself into a position where you feel that your body weight is evenly distributed between left and right, toes and heels. Open your eyes, stand still and note the following.

Shoulder Height:
This is not too much of a problem unless you can see a significant difference of more than 3cm between the height of your left and right shoulders. If this is the case, consult either an osteopath or a chiropractor for expert advice. A difference in left and right shoulder height can explain pain in your lower back or hip after a heavy phase of training.

Toe Orientation:
This will show you how flexible the muscles surrounding your hips are. The accepted norm here is for your toes to point outwards at an angle of between 7 and 12 degrees. If your toes point inwards, your groin is the problem. Toes out and your glutes/ITB/piriformis are likely the reason for any niggles or injuries. Too much toe-out angle means that you pronate (ankles roll inwards) by default.

Ankle Position:
This is the position of your ankles relative to the centre of your foot (e.g. inwards, central or outwards). Outwards means your foot is likely to have a high arch and be very rigid. Inwards shows a greater chance of you pronating, sometimes severely.

Knee Orientation:
This relates to the direction your knee caps point (e.g. inwards, straight or outwards) relative to your toe orientation. However, you may not necessarily find that your knees point outwards if your toes do. More often than not you will find that your knees face in the direction of movement while the toes point outwards. This is another sign of pronation.

Arch Functionality:
Test this by keeping your weight evenly distributed while trying to lift just your toes off the floor as high as possible.

How high can you lift your toes?
How much difference is there in your arch height?
How much movement is there in your ankles?

The accepted angle of your toes to the ground when you pick them up is 60 degrees. A larger angle than 60 degrees means your foot is hyper mobile, leading to a greater chance of twisted/ sprained ankles. A smaller angle than 60 degrees show that you seriously need to work on your flexibility.

If your arch height increases and the ankles move to a more central position then this is a good sign. It shows that the muscles in your foot are functioning correctly despite their natural orientation. If the arches don’t move this is not a good sign.

Knee Dip Test:
Without thinking about it, flex your ankles, bend your legs at the knees and see in which direction your knees go (e.g. inwards, straight or outwards). Your knees should travel along a line towards your second toes. If not, then look at your flexibility, muscle strength and balance.