Getting a gait analysis done can be quite insightful, and certainly beneficial if you have no idea of what kind of shoes will give you the most comfort while running.
Running – as we all know – is a high-impact sport. With every foot strike forcing an impact of up to 3 x a person’s body weight, there is a greater risk of damage to joints, tendons, and ligaments. If, in addition to the impact, one or both feet pronate (rotate) inward or outward, the extra pressure can lead to progressive misalignment of the body and eventually to more serious problems. Poorly fitted shoes may aggravate the problem/s even further.
It’s been years since I last had a gait analysis done myself, so I was a bit surprised when the Physical Therapist I’ve been seeing suggested I go and do one. She thought that in addition to the actual therapy side of things, that I’d benefit from running in shoes that might help to stabilize my feet and ankles.
Now before I go any further, let me state that this post isn’t an attempt to convince you that the type of shoe you run in will improve your odds of staying injury-free. There are plenty of arguments that you can search online yourself that will help you form your own opinion about that. What I will say however, is that regardless of the science either for or against, if you believe that the shoes recommended for you are the most supportive, and if they feel the most comfortable, then they are probably the best shoes for you.
Since it’s been months now that I have been able to run consistently without pain, I heeded the advice of my PT and went and saw Niel Boshoff at ShoeScience in Mt Eden. I sent a couple of people to him last year and was super impressed by his knowledge and expertise!
The first thing Niel did was put my feet in the type of running socks I would typically wear, and with socks on my feet he then measured each foot. I already knew from previous PT and chiro visits, that I have one foot and leg slightly longer than the other, which by the way is not uncommon.
Once my feet had been measured, Niel had me jog up and down an in-store running mat that was electronically connected to a recording device. When the video was replayed, we were able to view it in slow motion and get a close look at how each foot struck the ground. It was clear to see that there was some inward pronation going on with my right foot.
Based on the video analysis, Niel then chose a few pairs of shoes for me to try on (keep in mind that other factors, such as foot and arch type, length and width of the shoe, frequency and distances of weekly runs, and type of running surface), are also considered. I tried each of the different shoe brands selected, and settled on a pair of Saucony “stability” shoes, a huge change for me given that I have always opted for lighter-weight performance shoes.
Before I left the store, Niel had me run in the new shoes on a treadmill. While running at a comfortable pace, Niel observed my gait from various angles and once again took a video recording. It’s not obvious when you watch the video below, but when carefully viewed in slower motion, we could see that my right knee collapsed inwards with every right foot strike.
With all of the information gathered from both video recordings and questions asked, we agreed that of the three types of shoes that Niel had shown me, the Sauconys were most likely the best choice. They were the heaviest of the three (though not as heavy as some other stability shoes), but surprisingly the most comfortable.
It’s now been a few weeks since I visited Niel at ShoeScience, and I am still seeing my Physio Therapist, but one change that has come about since I started running in my new Sauconys is that I now run with a renewed sense of confidence. My shoes make me feel as if I’m gliding effortlessly, and that feeling alone has helped to rewire my thought patterns towards ones that are focused more on healing rather than fear of further injury.
[Go and see Niel at Shoe Science in Mt Eden if you would like an in-depth gait analysis, coupled with amazing customer service! Niel will even let you take the shoes home and return them if, after a few runs, you decide they don’t provide the comfort you expected].