What is the purpose of a gait analysis?
Posted: Oct 05, 2020
A gait analysis is the assessment of the way that you walk. Everyone has a different gait or walking technique that is often subtly or significantly different from the next person. The purpose of the gait analysis is to quantify those differences. A gait analysis is done for a wide range of reasons. A gait analysis can be a simple observation by a clinician of the way someone walks, looking for gross or obvious issues. At the other end of the extreme is the sophisticated 3 dimensional gait analysis that can take a few hours, markers attached on the body for multiple sophisticated cameras to track, followed by a high level computer analysis of the data. Between those two extremes are video camera based system, that usually film the individual walking or running on a treadmill. There are also systems that can measure pressure under different areas of the foot and systems that can record activity of the muscles.
Neurologists, orthopaedic surgeons and physiotherapists use gait analysis to assist in the diagnosis, monitoring of progress and treatment decision making for a wide range of neurological (eg multiple sclerosis), orthopaedic (eg knee osteoarthritis) and paediatric (eg cerebral palsy) conditions. They will often use the more sophisticated systems so that the current state of the gait can be well documented and be used to monitor the response to any treatment.
Podiatrists often use a gait analysis to have a detailed look at foot function and the effect of that foot function on higher up the leg and also what is happening around the back and hip and how that might be affecting the way the foot functions. They will look for things like an abductory twist and the medial heel whip to help make decisions on if foot orthotics can help improve function and what types of foot orthotics may be best for each individual.
Even forensic investigations use gait analysis. As everyone has a reasonably unique way that they walk, then if someone is captured on CTV footage, then this could be used to verify the identity of the individual based on the gait. Obviously, this is not going to be the only piece of evidence used, but has in recent years become an important part of the mix.
Running coaches and a lot of runners are particularly interested in the way that the running is done and they will often use one of many different apps that are now available to assess the runners gait. There is a lot of debate that is currently going on with regards to the best way to run with advocates for many different types of running techniques. Analysing the gait is an important part of this process. Running shoe retailers often use a gait analysis to look at the way a runner actually runs and they will use this kind of information to help them prescribe the right running shoe for that runner. As to if this is an effective way to do it, is still not been supported by any good research.
Craig Payne is a University lecturer, runner, cynic, researcher, skeptic, forum admin, woo basher, clinician, rabble-rouser, blogger and a dad.