Gait analysis is the systematic study of locomotion and the measuring of body movements, body mechanics, and the activity of the muscles in order to identify abnormalities and optimize and improve body movement.
The ability to move efficiently is important in avoiding injuries. If biomechanical problems are present the body must find ways to compensate which leads to biomechanical abnormalities. Biomechanical problems are usually caused by muscular imbalances such as tight muscles working against weak muscles, although they can sometimes be caused by structural problems, such as leg length discrepancies resulting in hip hiking.
Gait analysis at One on One Physical Therapy involves walking or running on a treadmill. Our trained professional will watch the way that you move, looking in particular at your feet, ankles, knees and hips.
Many injuries are often caused by poor biomechanics. Walkers, runners and athletes whose sports require a high level of running and jumping should make sure they have had a gait analysis to correct or avoid any problems and they should also buy the correct footwear to avoid future overuse injuries.
What is a Gait Cycle?
The gait cycle is the continuous repetitive pattern of walking or running and it begins when one foot contacts the ground and ends when that same foot contacts the ground again. The gait cycle is split into two main phases for walking, stance and swing, with one complete gait cycle including both phases. The gait cycle is split into three main phases for running, stance, swing, and float, with one complete gait cycle including all three phases.
The gait cycle of each leg is divided into the stance phase and the swing phase. The stance phase is the period during which the foot is in contact with the ground; the swing phase is the period in which the foot is off the ground and swinging forward. During the float phase, neither foot is on the ground.
In walking, the stance phase comprises approximately 60 percent of the gait cycle and the swing phase about 40 percent. The proportion of swing to stance phase changes as the speed of walking or running increases. As the speed is increased, the percentage of time spent in the stance phase decreases. Increased time is then spent in the swing phase, with a corresponding increase in the importance of swing phase muscles.
- Heel strike – The point when the heel hits the floor
- Foot flat – The point where the whole of the foot comes into contact with the floor
- Mid stance – Where we are transferring weight from the back, to the front of our feet
- Toe off – Pushing off with the toes to propel us forwards
- Acceleration – The period from toe off to maximum knee flexion in order for the foot to clear the ground
- Mid-swing – The period between maximum knee flexion and the forward movement of the tibia (shin bone) to a vertical position
- Deceleration – The end of the swing phase before heel strike
When running, a higher proportion of the cycle is swing phase as the foot is in contact with the ground for a shorter period. Because of this there is now no double stance phase, and instead there is a point where neither feet are in contact with the ground, this is called the float phase. As running speed increases, stance phase becomes shorter and shorter.
How to Correct your Gait Cycle
The first thing to do is have your gait cycle observed by a professional. The corrections can be as simple as changing footwear or using custom orthotic inserts. Moreover, a Physical Therapist at One on One Physical Therapy will tailor an exercise program to help even out muscle strength and flexibility so your gait is efficient and injuries can be avoided in the future.