When I first started running back in 2008 I never really thought about HOW I ran, or what shoes I needed to wear, I just ran. But when I started to get a niggling pain on the outside of my heel I took a trip to a running shop that offered gait analysis and hopped on a treadmill. Five minutes later I was told I over-pronate and was given several pairs of shoes to try on the treadmill until they found one that compensated for my gait. I paid for my shoes, and off I went, none the wiser as to what my feet were doing and why.
The phases of foot contact
When we walk, our feet touch the ground heel-first, slightly on the outside of our heel. From here, we transfer our weight from the heel towards the balls of our feet and then towards our big toe to push off the ground for the next step. As we do this, our foot rolls inwards slightly, distributing our weight and helping absorb some of the forces. This is a natural movement, one that’s supposed to happen.
But, some people’s feet roll inwards more than others (called over-pronation), and some people’s feet don’t roll in enough (under-pronation, or supination), both of which can cause problems if they transfer over to running. Under-pronation can result in increased shock to the bones of the lower leg, and over-pronation can cause twisting forces at the knee and soft tissue damage as your muscles fight to compensate.
What can you do about your gait?
Over the years, I’ve seen numerous specialists and suffered several injuries, always looking for the answer to my running problems. I’ve done a lot of research and even did a gait analysis course myself, where we looked at not just the feet, but the whole body’s posture when walking and running. I started to wonder if I could “correct” my over-pronation by strengthening my feet. I switched to neutral running shoes, kept my mileage fairly low and took up more strength training, eventually transitioning into CrossFit.
I strongly believe that strength training makes a huge difference in your running form, and I’ve even explored whether CrossFit can make you a better runner. Strengthening the legs, glutes and stomach muscles is important if you want to run more efficiently and potentially faster and more powerfully, but what about strengthening your feet? Unilateral leg exercises (like pistol squats, lunges, etc.) are great for working on strengthening the muscles in your lower legs and feet as they work to keep you upright, and yoga is also great, especially as you’re barefoot so you can’t rely on the soles of your shoes to give you a wider base to stand on.
All of this I felt, over time, was helping me run a bit better, but I didn’t know for sure. And then Asics invited me to have my gait assessed at their flagship store in London.
Asics gait analysis
The gait analysis offered at Asics is a huge leap from what I experienced 8 years ago at a different store. First I was asked to place one foot at a time in a 3d scanner, where all sorts of measurements were taken to gauge the size and shape of my feet and compare them to reference data. It turns out my feet are longer than average for my gender and age (not surprising as I wear a UK 8.5-9!) and my heels are relatively narrow (no wonder shoes always slip off the back of my feet!). The only other measurement that looked a little off-normal was my arch height, which is higher than average.
Next up was the treadmill test, far more sophisticated than the one I’d previously had. The treadmill, purpose built shoes and cameras measured my step frequency (slower than average at 162 steps per minute) and step length (longer than average at 107.9cm per step), and also determined the landing pattern and amount of pronation for each foot individually. I land well and truly on my forefoot, but my foot and ankle position now indicates a more neutral stride. After a conversation with the assistant about my running style, distance and preference, the Gel DS 21 trainers were recommended.
A lighter shoe designed for speed, the Gel DS 21 offers a smooth, stable ride perfect for neutral runners who want to push harder and faster. The outer is made up of a single layer, shaving weight off the shoe, while the forefoot and rearfoot gel offer cushioning through all phases of running (though I don’t make much use of the rearfoot gel!). There’s a propulsion trusstic (basically moulded rubber/plastic that mimics the tendons in the sole of your foot by creating tension as the shoe flexes), and a guidance line (a groove that follows the pattern of natural gait to encourage the shoe to flex in the correct way), both of which help guide your feet to make the right movements.
A few runs in and I’m really pleased with them – they’re lightweight and comfortable, and felt natural from the first step. The colourway is a little more “out there” than I’d usually go for, but then Asics are well known for their bright trainers!
And as an extra bonus to the gait analysis? You also get a handy booklet that talks you through the anatomy of the foot, the Asics gait analysis process and what each of the readings mean, and also some brilliant exercises to strengthen your feet and lower legs – most of which you could do at your desk at work (as long as your workmates don’t mind you taking your shoes off!). Just to make sure I keep my feet strong and maintain my neutral running gait, I’ll be following these exercises as often as I can.
Asics gait analysis is available at selected Asics stores (just refine results on the Store Locator by “Foot ID”) for £20 (price correct at time of writing), which you then get off of a pair of shoes.
Asics are celebrating the longest day tomorrow with the Beat the Sun race, where teams will take on a relay around Mont Blanc, aiming to complete the course before sunset. Join the global running community by setting your own personal running challenge – if you sign up you could be in with a chance of winning one of 20 goody bags!
Disclaimer: I received complimentary gait analysis and trainers from Asics. As always, my opinion is my own and not affected by items or services gifted to me. To find out more about my policy on this and other matters, see my Disclosure page. * Affiliate link. Affiliate links do not affect the price that you pay, but any commission earned helps me to pay the costs of running this site. To find out more about my policy on this and other matters, see my Disclosure page.