The word gait is used to describe the pattern of steps a person takes when moving, such as when walking or running. Gait analysis is the study of a person’s gait, and is used to help determine the presence of any biomechanical or structural abnormalities in our legs and feet.
Gait analysis is conducted using a gait scanner, which is a specialised type of mat. You will walk across the scanner, which will measure the pressure and analyse how you walk. Your podiatrist can then examine this data and determine what problems, if any, you are experiencing.
Your podiatrist may show you the results of the test. If so, you’ll need some idea of how to interpret what you’re looking at. You will be shown an image of your footprint, and it is the middle part that you need to pay attention to. Between the heel and the ball of your foot, there should be a curve. If this curve covers about half the foot, things are probably fine.
If less than half is filled in, it means that you have high arches, which means that not enough of your foot reaches the ground to absorb shock when you walk. This can send the shockwaves through your feet and up your leg, leading to pain that extends well beyond the arch itself.
If the middle curve extends beyond the halfway mark of your foot, it means you have fallen arches. This can occur as a result of improper footwear, and can lead you to turn your feet inward when you walk. This can put the inside of your legs under additional strain, which can also lead to pain which radiates up throughout the body.
Gait scanners work by detecting pressure when the feet are placed on the mat. This can also help identify abnormal walking patterns that may have arisen either as a force of habit or as a result of injury. Walking toe to heel is one example, as is trying to avoid putting full pressure on a sensitive part of your foot e.g. a sore toe or heel.
For many patients, the problem will be confined to their feet, and undergoing gait analysis allows you to develop a solution to the problem. A lot of the time this will involve some sort of customised orthotics which work b guiding your feet into the proper position. But other times, abnormal gait could be the cause or symptom of a problem elsewhere in the body, such as a sore back. Gait analysis can be the key to unlocking a bigger issue, so if you have any sneaking suspicions about the way you walk, don’t hesitate to get them checked out.
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