What is a Gait Analysis?

Ever wondered ‘what is a gait analysis?’ You may have also heard them called ‘running gait analysis’, ‘running tests’ or ‘gait assessments’  and wondered what it might involve. To demistify and let you know what you can expect from a Harris & Ross gait analysis, here is a handy guide written by our Podiatrist, Tom Johnson

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What is a gait analysis?

It’s an analysis of the way you walk, everyone walks differently, so the question is how can you identify what is causing an injury?

Why would I need a gait analysis?

If you go walking,  jogging, sprinting or run a lot in other sports related activities etc a gait analysis is wise as it can indicate where injuries are ‘likely’ to occur even if they are not yet presenting problems. A gait analysis is also a good idea if pain and discomfort is presenting in feet/ ankles/knees/ legs & hips as the root of such issues can often be found in movement analysis.

Identifying abnormalities

One way to do this is to observe limitations within an individual – in other words, any irregularities when running or walking. We know that inconsistencies can cause injuries, the bigger the imbalance, the bigger the chance of getting injured; especially injuries caused by repetitive movement, which is very common in road running.

This can be assessed before a treadmill examination. Just by standing someone up and assessing their posture, you can identify any asymmetries; even if you don’t have any medical background, you can get a feel for what is out of kilter. Whilst doing this, a short history will be taken to find out more details on how the patient is feeling.

Short medical history  

Here are a few of the questions we will run through to understand our patients-

  • When did the problems start and can you associate them with any activity?
  • Have you had any trauma to the lower limbs in the past
  • Does it vary upon shoe or surface?
  • Any other issues?
  • Anything else you can think of that might have contributed to your issues?
  • What are your goals?

The history may be the key to help in identifying the origin of the problem.


What makes a good gait analysis?

The first point to consider is that we move in 3D in nature; so in this regard, it’s very important to view in ‘sagittal plane’ – from the side. The first mistake some practitioners might make is to only view in ‘frontal plane’ – front facing. Viewing only one dimension, is not going to give you enough information.

The three body planes

  • Frontal plane – The classic view you see in shops showing only sidewards motion primarily of the foot and ankle. Although a minority of movement takes place in this plane during running, the variability is high; meaning any anomalies picked up are significant.
  • Sagittal plane – 85% of motion occurs here during the gait cycle, essentially the movement observed when viewing from one side.
  • Transverse plane – Rotational movement around an axis; which is very difficult to spot – although predicting this can give you a clue as to where an injury is coming from; in-toeing and out-toeing are examples of movements predicted in this plan
  • The upper and lower body are areas to also look at. Even though my concentration is focussed on the feet, it’s important to analyse what is going on elsewhere to gain more of an insight.

Movements that we are watching our for in a Harris & Ross gait analysis:

  • Arm Swinging – can contribute to the momentum of gait
  • Head bobbing – can give you an inkling as to how bouncy the gait is and also a marker for inefficiency
  • Shoulder tilt – may be a marker for leg length difference and/or scoliosis
  • Pelvic tilt – can predict whether the ‘glutes are firing’ and the engagement of your lower abdominal muscles – in other words, poor form!
  • Phasic Heel Strike – instantaneous, literally when the heel strikes the ground. Here, you should note the foot position at contact and where is it landing in relation to the body? More accurately the centre of mass can be viewed in the sagittal plane.
  • Midstance – where the load is being transferred through to the supporting limb. So, in this phase you can determine the extent of a lot of irregularities in gait pattern, because most of the displacement of joints and tissues will occur during this phase; it is also longer than the other phases.
  • Propulsion – after the loading heel comes off the ground. Most important of all, this movement essentially provides a summary of what’s happened.


The information that we gather in the above analysis will then be used to make a tailored plan for patients which will include some or all of the following, depending on level of issues found-

        • Physio required to encourage strengthening
        • Manual therapy, for instance massage or acupuncture for soft tissue release
        • Running re-training programme
        • Orthotics / Footwear appraisal
        • Other things to consider & make adjustments to-
          • Sleep
          • Periodisation
                             Running surface

    So if you are thinking about booking an appointment now you know a little more about you can expect in a Harris & Ross gait analysis!

  • We offer free gait analysis at our Manchester City Centre, Wigan and Wilmslow Total Fitness clinics- to arrange an appointment with Tom, you can contact us on 0161 832 9000 or info@harrisandross.co.uk. You can also arrange your next appointment via our online booking facility at the bottom of the screen here.

We also work with sports stores and specialist running shops such as Up & Running Manchester to offer Harris & Ross gait analysis clinics in store for customers. If you are a store owner and would like to know more contact info@harrisandross.co.uk.