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Know your running gait

How to work out your running motion

Your running gait is simply the cycle between when your foot first hits the ground through to the next time the same foot hits the ground again. This running motion will be different for each individual runner. However, a runner's gait can lead to some common problems. Here's our guide to overcoming common running gait injuries.

This cycle is split into five stages:

  • Stance: When your foot first strikes the running surface.
  • Loading: When your heel touches the running surface to the time your forefoot touches the running surface.
  • Mid-stance: Your heel starts to lift, and the forefoot flexes.
  • Toe off: Your foot leaves the running surface.
  • Swing: When your foot leaves the ground and touches again.

Each individual’s gait can be likened to a fingerprint. How and when you make your strikes; forefoot or heel first and your swings are unique, depending entirely on your running style.

Surprisingly, unique running gaits can result in common problems. Your foot will have its own natural outwards or inwards rolling movement throughout the gait cycle. These rolling movements are necessary for the foot to function properly whilst in motion. However, it is when these rolling movements become exaggerated, two particular problems can occur.

Overpronation is the term used to describe when the foot rolls too far inwards, causing the foot arch to flatten and stretches the muscles and tendons in the foot. Conversely, supination refers to the outward roll, placing large strains on the muscles and tendons that stabilize the ankle.

Some degree of supination and pronation of the foot whilst running are perfectly normal actions. The term 'neutral runner' is used to describe someone whose foot pronates and supernates in the right areas and in the right amounts. It is only when these rolling movements become exaggerated problems can occur.

Symptoms when running
Excessive pronation and supination can cause a number of ailments that not only affect the foot and ankle. Hip and back problems can also be attributed to the exaggerated roll of the foot.

Some of the most common running symptoms are:

  • Arch and heel pain
  • Flat feet
  • Ankle pain
  • Achilles tendonitis
  • Knee pain
  • Hip and back pain. 

Prevention and treatment
Generally, these problems are best treated and prevented by orthic inserts, which can be prescribed by a qualified podiatrist after a gait and foot strike analysis. Firstly understand your individual gait; you may be a definite pronator or supinator without realising. A test to get some insight on your gait can be carried out by simply looking at a pair of your well worn running shoes. The inward or outward tilt of the wearing may indicate if you are an overpronator or supinator.

However, the wearing signs may be subtle or misleading and may need an expert eye to recognise them. Therefore, the best way to understand your running gait is to have it thoroughly evaluated and analysed, a service that is offered at more specialised sport shops.

 

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