The Importance of Gait Analysis in Sports & Health

Walking is just walking, right? And running is just running?

Wrong. As anyone who’s ever twisted an ankle or endured a knee replacement can tell you, the way you walk is hugely influenced by factors such as injury, repetitive use, environment, footwear and even nutrition.

Your physical health impacts your gait – the way you move from here to there – and your gait impacts your physical health. It’s a cycle that can prove virtuous or vicious, depending on the care one takes to keep that gait pattern healthy. But just how do we accomplish that?

As athletes, podiatrists, athletic directors, clinicians, and researchers know all too well, this isn’t necessarily easy. But it is important. That’s why you need the right tools to determine what’s happening down at foot level… which is where gait analysis comes in.

Gait analysis is a critical tool in the health of hugely divergent sectors of the human population, from athletes to stroke victims, paraplegics to hobby runners. Without the right understanding of why gait analysis matters, however, it’s harder to treat everyday biomechanical problems, so here’s a brief primer.


What Is Gait?

Gait is the pattern of movement created by picking up and putting down your feet in succession, creating steps. To understand it fully, we must look at a few different definitions.

Gait vs. Stride

While some people use gait and stride interchangeably to mean the way a person walks, they are not the same thing.

  • Stride is the distance between two footfalls on one side of the body, e.g. the distance between picking up and putting back down the left foot. Usually, the left and the right stride length are equal, though pathologies can change this – or in turn, an unusual stride length can cause pathologies if untreated.
  • Gait is the entire cycle of picking up your foot, swinging it across to the next landing point, putting it back down, then supporting the other foot’s swing before picking the first foot up again. The gait cycle consists of multiple specific stages, including the stance phase (during which the other foot is swinging) and the swing phase (when the other foot is bearing the weight).

Gait and stride are, of course, intertwined. Any physician or therapist analyzing a patient is likely to look at both.

Factors in Gait

To measure gait, scientists and physicians may look at metrics such as:

  • Stride length;
  • Step time;
  • Swing time;
  • Force;
  • Center of gravity; and
  • Weight distribution

… and more. They will likely also want to know what is happening where the foot contacts the ground – or, more technically, where it contacts the footwear. An in-depth understanding of pressure patterns created by the surface of the foot can help them decide what’s wrong and what to do about it.


Why Does Gait Matter?

While most of the research about gait focuses on the legs, it is not confined there. In fact, your gait has implications for many areas of your body. The wrong gait can cause problems for your hip and back, even the upper cervical area around the neck and shoulders. Gait also has consequences for your mobility, balance, strength and stability.

In other words, the wrong gait is likely to put a strain on the rest of your body, hamper healing and heighten the risk of injury. Finding the right one has a number of benefits, including faster healing, injury prevention, speed and economy in running and sports, and overall health and comfort.

Beyond health, gait matters hugely to how well someone performs. The wrong center of gravity can mean major losses in running speed and economy. Pressure on the wrong part of the foot can compromise ankles and other structures in sports that require a lot of stop-and-go movement or pivoting. And different gaits require different accommodations vis-à-vis footwear and insoles.

It’s clear, in other words, that without a proper understanding of gait, we can get neither athletics nor medicine to their full potential. Which is why data is so important.


How Is Gait Measured?

Gait measurement is both a qualitative and a quantitative pursuit, but the primary way to glean information about how someone moves is by using motion-sensing insoles. These are the best tools for both athletic and research purposes as well as clinical purposes.

Insoles embedded with sensors take frequent, multi-point pressure readings from hundreds of points. This enables you not only to create a detailed 2D pressure image of what is happening inside the shoe as feet contact the ground, but to create a moving visual of the process over time. Complemented by rafts of data, it’s the ideal tool for diagnosing podiatry issues and creating comprehensive treatment plans.

With unobtrusive hardware inserted over the insole undetected and allows the patient/client/athlete to move without wires or other obstructions, as well as cutting-edge software, you’ll have a complete system at your fingertips. Make sure whatever system you choose, however, is made so that hardware and software work together seamlessly.

When they do, the sum becomes greater than the whole. You no longer have to guess what’s happening when a patient walks or runs, you can now see it in real-time, in full-colour glory.


Clinical Gait Analysis from Pressure Mapping Experts XSENSOR

Looking for that comprehensive system to add to your clinic, athletic center, hospital or other institution? XSENSOR has you covered. Our industry-leading equipment is heralded by coaches, clinicians and clients as the only solution worth considering.

We combine Intelligent Dynamic Sensing equipment with smart data, AI-powered analysis and the highest-quality visualisations to give you an in-depth look at exactly what’s going on inside a shoe – and all the way up the body. The result is higher performance, greater safety and comfort, faster healing and fewer injuries down the road.

Ready to learn about XSENSOR technology? We would love to offer you a free demo today, guiding you through the potential of our patented technology to address your needs.

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