Gait analysis—the study of a person’s unique static and dynamic movement—reveals physical imbalances and inefficiencies by analyzing body mechanics. Some high-end running shoe stores offer some form of gait analysis as part of their shoe fitting services, but true gait analysis goes far beyond footwear evaluation and is typically performed by a physical therapist.
A gait analysis session with a physical therapist takes about one to two hours, during which time the patient is analyzed to determine his or her personal movement patterns, including step and stride length, cadence, speed, and foot and hip angle.
The session begins with a physical assessment of strength, flexibility, stability, functional strength, and kinesthetic awareness. Next, the patient is monitored or recorded running on a treadmill to obtain a fuller understanding of his or her gait. The complete assessment provides the physical therapist with critical insight into how the patient moves.
Based on the results of the examination and live or slow-motion running analysis, the physical therapist can make an evaluation of the patient’s mechanical issues—the specific areas where his or her body compensates for imbalances, causing inefficiency in movement—and design a therapy program to correct them.
Because gait analysis is an effective treatment for mobility issues, injury and re-injury prevention, and/or the improvement of athletic performance, it’s useful and appropriate for both patients recovering from injury or impairment and athletes trying to reduce their risk for injury or reach their full athletic potential.