In short, running gait analysis involves a professional in the field watching you run to analyse how your body reacts throughout the gait cycle. This, in theory at least, leads to the recommendation of a particular type of shoe that is suited to your running style, thus making running more comfortable and reducing, not eliminating, the risk of injury.
Despite recommending it on a number of occasions to fellow runners, I’ve never actually had my own gait analysed. I did go to Decathlon at one point a few years back in the hope of getting some insight. It wasn’t quite as I had hoped, as they watched me on a treadmill for maybe 20-30 seconds, told me I had a neutral gait and showed me the section of shoes that I should be choosing from. Similarly, when buying shoes from Sports Direct once, they did a wet foot test, said I had low arches and recommended a stability shoe. Neither involved any real analysis.
This weekend though, I went to a specialist running shop in Coventry, the Coventry Runner, and received the experience that you would expect from a gait analysis. The lady inspected my stance in my current running shoes and instantly commented on the inward lean of my right leg, indicating that more arch support was required. She then fitted me up with 6 or 7 different shoes, each with varying support, and watched me run on a treadmill to analyse the movement of my lower legs. We also went through comfort and how each shoe felt, both while standing and running.
In the end, we whittled it down to a couple of pairs of Brooks, eventually deciding on the Adrenaline GTS 18 as they offered a little extra support. Watching myself back on video after running in these, the inward roll from my natural pronation was eliminated, and I had an almost straight leg.
In truth, these offer a little bit more support than I would really like, and also have a bigger heel to toe drop than I would like. Following on from my second shin splints injury in three years earlier this year, I decided to change my running style, moving from a heel strike to a mid foot strike. The shoes I bought to help with this were the Saucony Freedom ISO, which have a 4mm drop and offer very little support. They have indeed helped me to transition to a mid foot strike, but this has come at a price. I’ve developed an on-and-off pain in my hip, which seems to be more prominent the further I run and also during hill running. I’ve also been experiencing some discomfort in the ball of my foot and along the arch, sometimes not being able to flex without pain after a run. Finally, in general, my legs feel battered if I have completed anything north of 6 or 7 miles. I recently did a 13-miler after work and felt like I had run a marathon.
So whilst I don’t particularly want to run in a heavily cushioned shoe, heel striking and over pronating, maybe that is what suits my body and, to be honest, if it means returning to enjoying pain free running, then I don’t particularly care what is on my feet or what my running style is like.
On a final note, I would definitely recommend gait analysis to any runner suffering with any on going injuries or even aches and pains. What I experienced at the Coventry Runner felt very thorough, non-judgmental and it was a pleasant experience. I would certainly recommend the store.