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Understanding Your Running Gait: The Crucial Importance Revealed

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  • Post last modified:September 26, 2023

In theory, jogging appears to be the simplest form of physical activity: All you need to do is tie up your sneakers and hit the pavement (or the treadmill). However, without a proper understanding of your own running mechanics, you might be doing your body a disservice – and potentially setting yourself up for injury.

“It’s extremely common for runners to not actually know how their body is moving and where their body is landing,” says Claire Wood, the vice president of global footwear at SOREL. That’s where the concept of running gait comes into play.

Understanding Running Gait

Essentially, your gait refers to your way of moving on foot. While everyone gets from point A to point B in slightly different ways (consider how you may be able to identify a friend from afar by the way they walk), comprehending your gait – which is initially established when you learn to crawl as an infant – and determining where you fall on the spectrum can be a valuable tool for improving your running technique.

“Each person has their own unique style of gait, allowing for an efficient pattern of movement on the ground,” says Mark Cucuzzella, M.D., who has developed running programs for the U.S. Air Force. “Your posture and the way your foot interacts with the ground are two crucial factors that enable normal gait; if either of these aspects is less than optimal, compensations will occur – potentially leading to stress and strain on tissues that are not built to handle these pressures,” he explains.

Running gait can be categorized into three types of pronation (i.e., how your foot contacts the ground):

  • Neutral/normal pronation occurs when your foot makes full contact with the ground, rolling inward about 15 percent in order to absorb shock.
  • Underpronation or supination happens when the outer part of your heel makes initial contact with the ground, and your foot rolls inward by less than 15 percent.
  • Overpronation takes place when your foot rolls inward by more than 15 percent, which can lead to stability issues in the foot and ankle. (See: The Best Running Shoes for Overpronation, According to Customer Reviews)

So why should you even be concerned? When searching for running shoes, it’s beneficial to have an understanding of your gait, as it will impact which shoes will enhance – rather than hinder – your performance.

How to Assess Your Running Gait

If you’re truly dedicated to running, the most effective way to identify your gait is by visiting a specialized running store where an expert can evaluate your form while you run on a treadmill. However, for beginners, the comfort of your own home is a great place to start.

Enlist a companion

Maintain a record of your discomforts and aches.

It additionally assists to jot down your jogging history. Document when you jog and how you felt later: Did you experience discomfort on the interior of your shins or knees? In such a case, you might be overpronating. Pain in your ankles can indicate underpronation.

Examine your shoe soles.

Take note of the wear pattern on your current jogging shoes as well. Does the inside tip of the shoe appear worn? If that’s the case, that’s an indication that you’re overpronating. Underpronators will observe more deterioration on the outer edge of their shoes. You can also align your well-worn footwear and view them from behind — do they appear to tilt outward or inward, or lay flat?

Give the wet foot procedure a try.

The wet foot procedure entails creating a wet footprint on a paper shopping bag or heavy paper — however, there’s a caveat. While this is an efficient procedure for determining the shape of your arch, it doesn’t provide you with all the details about your gait. “People believe that a high arch implies a natural gait and a low arch implies an overpronated gait, but that’s not always accurate,” says Wood. In order for the wet foot procedure to function, you need to considerably flex your knees to observe the weight distribution on your arch.

No, You Don’t Have to Alter Your Gait

Now that you possess a bit more understanding about how you jog, utilize that information to your advantage. Comprehending your gait can assist you in jogging for a longer duration, with more strength, and without injuries. Irrespective of what you discover, there’s genuinely no justification to attempt to rectify your gait; scientific research suggests that the most effective jogging stride is the one that comes naturally to you. While podiatrists have formerly advocated orthotics to control pronation, a 2015 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine discovered no evidence that foot pronation is a factor in jogging injuries. However, both Wood and Dr. Cucuzzella affirm that they have witnessed joggers experiencing pain in their shins, knees, hamstrings, and lower back due to wearing inappropriate shoes for their gait.

When choosing a jogging shoe, Dr. Cucuzzella advises that “the characteristics of a shoe should be to enable your foot to function like a foot in the conditions in which you are employing it.” In his viewpoint, that implies it should be wide at the toes, lacking an elevated heel, and not excessively cushioned, which enables the foot to make contact with the ground and provide you with optimum balance. “If you don’t believe this is true, give a flat, wide shoe a try for a couple weeks and observe how you feel,” suggests Dr. Cucuzzella.

Another point to bear in mind is that your size in jogging shoes is not the same as your size in high heels or slip-on shoes, according to Wood.

It’s unusual, particularly in ladies, for their jogging shoes to be insufficiently big,” she states. A useful suggestion: When testing out shoes, ensure you have a small space from your longest toe to the peak of the shoe. (Heads up: There are numerous other factors to consider when purchasing sneakers if you have flat feet.)