Does Gait Retraining Work?
As a Podiatrist with an interest in endurance running I am often asked by runners “Should I change the way that I run? And if so how?”
Firstly, there is no “best” way to run, however there are “better” ways to run depending on your situation.
In this blog I will answer the why, what and how of gait retraining and most importantly does it work.
Why Should I Change My Running Technique?
There are 3 main reasons why you would change your running technique:
- To Reduce Pain: changes to your running technique can reduce loads on painful areas in your legs.
- To Reduce your Risk of Injury: if you run in a way that puts high load through your knees then changing this will reduce your risk of developing a knee injury.
- To Improve Running Economy: gait retraining can reduce “wasted” energy when running especially if you have a bouncy running style.
What should I change in my Running Technique?
During running gait assessments if I see a runner with one or more of the following traits then I may suggest a gait retraining program.
These traits include:
- Low cadence (steps per minute): research has found that if you have a cadence of less than 164 you are 6.67 times more likely to experience a shin injury against a population with a cadence of greater than 174
- Overstriding: this is how far your foot is in front of you compared to your centre of mass. The larger that you overstride the greater load on your knee and shin
- High vertical oscillation (bouncy gait): high bounce during gait reduces your running economy causing fatigue quicker which will increase your risk of fatigue related injuries
- Crossover gait (from behind the feet crossing the midline): this may indicate weakness in your gluteal muscles and can cause increased load in your ankles, shins and knees
How do I change my Running Technique?
At Complete Podiatry we use gait retraining as one part of your whole management plan which also includes:
- Pain management
- Reducing the load on the damaged tissues with taping or orthoses
- Improving the health of the tissue with shockwave therapy
- Improving the strength of the tissue with strength training
If you are a candidate for gait retraining then the easiest and most effective way to reduce load using gait retraining is to gradually increase your cadence.
Increasing your cadence needs to be done with caution, increasing it too fast can lead to you getting a different injury therefore the research suggests to only increase your cadence by 5-10% at a time.
Gait retraining is best achieved over a period of 8 running sessions using feedback from a metronome counter.
I know, there's a lot of science behind it and it can be complicated but this is why it is important to book in with your Podiatrist for a full biomechanical assessment before attempting any gait retraining program.
Does Gait Retraining work long term?
Yes, the research suggests that after an intensive gait retraining program you will continue to show the changes in gait patterns up to 8 months after.
This is great news as it means that while we can reduce the load on the painful areas of your body with gait retraining we can also strengthen those weakened areas with exercises.
This means that once your running gait does revert back your body will be stronger and prepared to handle those higher loads.
Want to Know More?
My passion is working with people who love being active and exercising.
If you have pain which is stopping you from achieving your running goals or being active book in with a Podiatrist at Complete Podiatry now.
Podiatrist at Complete Podiatry