How to Use Gait Assessment Tools for Performance & Health

Walking is something most of us do, a system that gets us from A to B, a system on which we have unthinkingly relied for all of our lives.

Yet gait is so much more than just a pattern of strides that takes us where we need to go. It is an exceedingly complex biomechanical process that has evolved over millions of years. Today, our upright posture and bipedal stride are integral to what it means to be human – yet not everyone has such an easy time achieving it.

From stroke victims to injured athletes, some individuals need more attention to gait than others. Luckily, we now have a wide variety of tools at our disposal to help us map, measure, adjust and perfect gait in everyone from hospital patients to runners.

In this post, we will consider what gait is and why it matters, as well as the types of tools available today for clinicians to address gait issues. Lastly, we will take a look at the best option for gait assessment, so that you can integrate these tools into your practice or life today.

Read Our Research Article: Validity & Reliability of the XSENSOR In-Shoe  Pressure Measurement System

What Exactly Is Gait?

As the Cleveland Clinic explains, “Gait is a person’s pattern of walking. Walking involves balance and coordination of muscles so that the body is propelled forward in a rhythm, called the stride.”

Gait includes every movement from lifting one’s foot, picking it up off the ground, swinging it through and placing it back down, as well as planting while bearing the load of the opposite leg while it moves through the swing phase. This simple progression of steps – literal steps – is the base of support for all upright human activity.

As such, a person’s gait is critically important to their movement, and in some cases to their health overall. When it is unhealthy, it’s time for an intervention. But first, we have to figure out what’s wrong.


What Is Gait Analysis?

Gait assessment or analysis is the process of mapping and measuring metrics such as the stride, stance, pressure points and gait speed. As a physician, therapist, or coach, we might do this while an individual is walking, jogging or running. In some cases, they will also take measurements while the individual is standing (though this is considered “stance” and not “gait”).

By watching and measuring the gait pattern, physicians can assign a gait score. Although the exact compilation of the score differs depending on the technologies used, a typical score will include parameters such as the “six aspects of gait (temporal, amplitude, variability, regularity, symmetry and complexity) quantified with one inertial sensor” used in this study.

Gait analysis may look for all of these or just some. The main goal, however, is to find out what’s wrong with the stride and fix it. This has a number of implications, including:

  • Speed and economy while running
  • Sports performance
  • Healthy walking and running movements
  • Therapeutic exercises
  • Selection of footwear
  • Assistive device prescription and preparation

To address any of the above needs, you need the right tools.


Tools for Gait Assessment

There are two basic tool categories needed for functional gait assessment.

Gait Analysis Hardware: Insoles & Walkways

Without the right hardware, you can’t hope to learn about gait beyond a simple visual assessment. You need a system that measures the forces exerted by the foot on the ground throughout the gait cycle, which can come in the form of insoles or walkways.

Walkways allow patients or clients to simply hop on, wearing their own shoes, and get an immediate assessment. Sensors in the moving pad pick up pressure points, painting a detailed picture of how the individual moves while walking or running. There are some limitations to a walkway, most notably the fact that it must stay indoors.

Motion insoles solve that problem. Thin, flexible insoles slide into shoes with which athletes or patients are already familiar, then go anywhere people can: the track, the field, the neighbourhood, you name it.

Without wires or cords, there’s nothing to trip on or keep you in one place, so you can perform a complete pressure mapping assessment without limitation.

Gait Analysis Software: 3D Modeling and Datasets

Once you’ve gathered your data, you need to turn it into meaningful information, the better to assimilate it into treatment plans and recommendations. Enter software, which links to the hardware and creates two kinds of actionable information: plantar pressure and loading data and gait timing.

As researchers and physicians, you can then combine this extremely precise quantitative data, gathered from thousands of pressure points, with their qualitative observations to make a robust treatment plan. Just like that, you’re so much better equipped to recommend footwear, treat injuries and prevent them in future.


The Complete Functional Gait Assessment System

Gait assessment tools are useful both in a clinical setting and in the research environment.

Clinicians routinely report that XSENSOR’s insoles influence podiatry intervention and therapy. That’s because they’re not only easy to use but extremely efficient and accurate at capturing the necessary information to inform diagnoses and treatment plans.

As industry-leading podiatrist Tim Bransdon recently explained, “I am now several months into using XSENSOR’s intelligent insoles for plantar pressure analysis and they are proving to be an invaluable addition to my clinical decision-making. Equally, they enable objective measurement of treatment interventions that I have applied.”

Combining software and hardware into one seamless system, XSENSOR has solved the disconnect between quantitative and qualitative assessment. You can now perform a variety of gait analysis tasks on patients or clients who are wearing unobtrusive, non-invasive, wireless shoes that don’t interrupt data collection.

If you’d like to learn more about how to optimize sports rehab outcomes, increase running speed and efficiency, or solve everyday medical complaints, we’d love to tell you more. Please reach out today to ask questions or book a demo, and don’t wait any longer to enjoy the cutting-edge data-based perfection that comprises the XSENSOR intelligent insole system.

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