What is a gait assessment?
Your gait is the manner in which your body moves when you walk, including the way your feet strike the ground. For example, if you tend to walk on the outside of your feet, that is part of your gait. A gait assessment is simply a professional observing your gait and drawing conclusions about the manner in which you walk. Gait assessments can be done by qualified people across several fields including physical therapists, podiatrists, and even trained running shoe store employees. And while there are some high-tech devices that can measure exact pressure and angles, a lot can be learned just by watching.
Why do a gait assessment?
Common reasons people seek out a gait assessment are foot pain, trying to match their feet to the correct running shoe, or figuring out what type of insole they need. The assessment is critical because the information learned from the process will determine what type of support or correction that person needs. If a runner has decided to spend $100+ on running shoes, they want to make sure they are getting the shoes that will fit their needs, feel good when they run, and even help to prevent injuries. Running on, for example, a shoe that is best suited for people who need a high level of arch support and correction if you typically do not need those in place might cause discomfort or pain because it may force the incorrect structures in your foot to bear the impact and pressure of running. Over time this could lead to stress injuries. Similarly, if a person experiences pain from typical daily walking and a podiatrist discovers that they overpronate, they may find relief in using an insert to correct their alignment.
Where can you get a gait assessment done?
For the purpose of purchasing running shoes, many running shoe stores offer free gait assessments. For a medical diagnosis, a physical therapist, podiatrist, and some chiropractors can perform a gait assessment. But if you want a quick snapshot of how your foot touches the ground, which is a very important part of your gait, there is an at-home method you can try.
Quick Foot Imprint Test:
1. Place a piece of cardboard, construction paper, or other material that will change color when wet, on level ground.
2. Wet one foot so that it is damp but not dripping and take a natural step onto the cardboard, then remove your foot.
3. Repeat with the other foot.
Check the diagram below to match your footprints with the type of arch described.
While this quick test is not perfect, it does give you an idea of how your foot interacts with the ground and may lead you to seek further assessment if you are surprised by the results. And because the way in which we move and stand is about more than just our feet, you may find that your knee, hip, or even back pain are associated with the way you walk and the alignment of your ankles. Because all of these movements are connected, a simple gait assessment can shed light on many aspects of how you feel and open the door for relief and improvement.