Gait Analysis and Gait Training


First of all – what is “gait?” Gait is the way a person (or animal) walks or runs.  A runner’s gait is the big picture of their running form. When describing gait, we are referring to all of the individual limb and joint movements that are caused by muscle activation.

Gait abnormalities can occur with lack of muscle performance, joint positioning and asymmetry

Abnormalities in running gait can be a key causative factor in the development of a running injury.  If specific tissues are unable to support the body in good alignment, the body will adapt.  In many instances, these adaptations change the way the body deals with the force of running.  If body tissue (muscle, bone, ligament) takes on more force than it’s built to deal with, it will break down.  Strengthening weak muscles or stretching tight muscles is a necessary step to addressing this problem – but without training your body to move differently, your gait pattern will not change.

Slowing it down

Slow motion gait analysis using a camera that is capable of capturing high movement speeds in good quality is a key tool for the treatment of runners. By viewing running gait in slow motion – with the whole body visible – our physical therapists can get an extremely accurate picture of the runners form. Our findings from the gait analysis are paired with data from the musculoskeletal examination to determine the factors that are causing the runner pain.

How can I fix a gait abnormality?

Once the cause of the pain or injury has been determined, a plan of care is formulated to address these causes. This plan highly dependent on the specific data gathered in examination and the runner’s goals. It can include a combination of gait training, strengthening, stretching, elasticity training, functional movement training and orthotic intervention. The gait training aspect is the key to the plan of care in a runner who has a running gait deviation that is causing their pain – especially if this is a recurring problem.

Gait training itself is also highly individualized.  The runner will perform trials on a treadmill with a physical therapist present.  During these trials, cueing will be used to encourage the runner to change a specific portion of their gait. These cues can be verbal – the physical therapist speaking a command – or visual – the runner watching themselves in real time to assist with understanding of the new movement. After each visit, the runner will be given some instructions for things to try on their normal runs – typically only one or two changes to try during a short period of time on any given run.

Throughout the course of treatment, the physical therapist will show the client video of their running trials. Evidence based practice suggests that runners are able to make these changes relatively quickly and are able to maintain them after treatment.  When finished with the course of treatment, the runner will have an in depth understanding of their running gait and the ability to continue to practice on their own.

Check out some slow motion video (coming soon)!

Below are examples of slow motion gait videos (coming soon) similar to those we would use to assess your running form and get you on the road to better running. Every runner is different and may respond to different cueing techniques. The physical therapist’s responsibility is to effectively cue and educate the runner to streamline the process. If you have any questions about this process, feel free to give us a call at 912-351-2382 or email rhorstman@coastaltherapy.com.