Pull your wonky gait into line!November 6, 2012
People, it’s time to pull your wonky gait into line! Put the power tools down though! The only drill required is of the exercise variety.
Gait, the pattern of movement of the limbs during locomotion over a solid substrate, is fundamental to a low impact, injury-free running or walking technique.
The ideal gait pattern involves conforming to an imaginary central line running through the head, shoulders, hips and knee joints while falling into a straight line, vertically above the foot, upon impacting the ground each stride.
Regardless of the speed at which you are travelling, a straight gait is crucial in avoiding weakening muscles and resulting injury. Even Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man who gives your average family car a run for its money, manages to land with a perfect gait, every stride.
For years, footwear manufacturers have tried to cheat their way to a perfect gait by designing running shoes thought to reduce the loading on the joints. The 1980s saw the previously thin, light-soled sneakers replaced by chunkier, more cushioned designs. Ironically, the shock absorption effect of such shoes only encourages the wearer to overcompensate, resulting in over-striding.
Over-striding describes the movement in which a runner or walker’s foot lands in front of that all-important imaginary line we discussed earlier. This causes the front/anterior chain muscles to work harder and the back/posterior chain muscles to become weaker. The resulting imbalance puts strain on all the usual running/walking structures, from the plantar fascia to the patellofemoral joint and all the way up into the pelvis and lower back.
For those who have concerns about over-striding, there is a simple test you can carry out.
Find a level concrete strip and remove your shoes and socks. Start running or walking barefoot at your usual pace. If you find your heel slamming into the concrete and thus impairing your normal style of stride then you are a victim of over-striding. Basically, your shoes are cheating your posterior chain muscles. You are bringing a whole new meaning to pounding the pavement. In fact, the pavement is pounding you!
Running barefoot can be an effective technique in curbing and even eradicating an over-stride but if this approach is too tough on your sneaker-spoilt feet then experiment with a minimalist running shoe like the Vibram. See my previous blog entry Running Against the Grain for more info.
Stride for success and fix your wonky gait!