Gait analysis is the systematic study of human motion, using the eye and the brain, augmented by instrumentation for measuring body movements, body mechanics, and the activity of the muscles. Gait analysis is used to assess, plan, and treat individuals with conditions affecting their ability to walk or run. It is also commonly used in sports biomechanics to help athletes run more efficiently and to identify posture-related or movement-related problems in people with injuries.
Podiatric biomechanics is very technical and requires high skill to deal with problems of standing, walking and running. It is the use of this skill in performing a biomechanical examination that enables podiatrists to identify and treat functional faults.
A biomechanical examination involves taking a series of measurements of the feet and legs with the patient standing and lying down and may include checking joint movements and assessing muscle strength and flexibility. It will often include watching the patient walk to assess the way in which the foot works. In most cases we may combine the use of video gait analysis and or pressure plate analysis depending on presenting conditions/problems.
The footinjuryclinic has a specialised gait analysis room with video assessment on a treadmill and makes use of slow motion replays via Videotrak gait analysis software. The clinic also has a fluoroscope pressure plate used in determining areas of high impact and load. Our clinics have all been designed with a 20 metre walk way, used to view patients running and walking.
Most of us will have a foot problem at some point in life but until then our feet are often neglected. It has been estimated that 70% of us are born with an abnormal foot structure.
Obviously the foot plays a crucial part in the process of walking, and often suffers as a result of poor function. The painful foot problems that may result from inefficient function include corns and calluses, painful toenails, pain in the ball of the foot, the arch, the ankle, or in the heel.
Less obvious, but very important, is the fact that inefficient foot function has an influence on other parts of the body. A small structural or functional imbalance in the foot may often cause no foot pain at all. It may however have an effect that may cause problems in the ankles, knees, hips, back, neck and even the jaw; essentially, all parts of the body that are connected to the feet by the skeleton. This may show itself as pain, instability, restricted movement, or in some cases just fatigue.
The most common treatment for biomechanical problems is the use of special shoe inserts known as orthoses, or more commonly, orthotics. They assist the feet to function more efficiently. They do this by controlling joint movement, and by altering some joint angles to prevent excessive motion.
Many look like arch supports, but they are not intended to support the arch. Orthotics are angled individually to control the heel and forefoot, and prevent excessive motion. The natural arch in the foot will in most case become more apparent whilst the orthotics are worn. There are many different types of orthotics. The type that is used depends on the activity in which the patient is involved, the shoes they want to wear, and the underlying foot problem.