In 2002, after not running for years due to a knee injury, I was inspired to give it a try again. I walked into a reputable local running shop and they did what most shops did then and still do today. They had me run on a treadmill and took some high speed video from behind, much like what they’re doing in this video, though without the fancy angle measuring software.
Based on how they saw my ankles collapsing inward (pronation), they put me in one of the sturdiest motion control shoes on the market at the time and on top of them, they added a stiff plastic insole. Until I really started investigating proper form, this is what I ran in for thousands of training miles, many half marathons and even my first marathon.
When I started working on my form and actively making changes, curious things started to happen. First, in order not to heel strike, my stride length shortened. But even without letting my feet get way out in front, it was hard to NOT heel strike with the motion control shoe’s very thick, built up heel. At that point, I began a slow transition to shoes with less and less pronation support. I was on to something with the lighter shoes, but not precisely the right variable.
Second, the lateral sides of my feet started getting sore and soon after, I noticed the lateral edges of my shoes soles were showing more than the usual wear. Why? The motion control shoe plus orthodic liner was preventing my feet from pronating, but with the changes in form, they were actually over compensating. That’s right, fixing my form solved the pronation and the added structure in the shoe caused me to run on the outside edges! Running with better form in the burly shoes was starting to cause injury.
Given my experience since that first visit to a running store, I now see a glaring question here that’s begging to be asked. If careful observation and analysis show that there is some pathological issue with one’s stride, shouldn’t the stride be changed before adding structural elements like thick EVA foam or posting?
Let’s go back to that video for a moment. They called it a gait analysis, but can you see anything interesting about the runner’s gait in the first video? Can you see anything at all about how they’re running? Yes, we get a clear view of how their ankles move and some angles between the ground and legs, but is there anything here that shows why? We can’t see how they interact with the ground almost at all and we can’t really see much about the motion in between. Most motion in running is in a front to back plane and viewed from behind, we miss all of that.
Compare that view to this runner viewed from the side. It’s taken in poor light, but it’s slow motion and clear enough to notice some very important things. Right away, we can immediately see some form issues that this runner could work on. Without getting into too much detail, this runner is overstriding and therefore heel striking. Then as a result, there’s quite a bit of downward motion to absorb the impact and he pushes off with his toes to drive him both up and forward. No matter what shoe he’s wearing, he has some form issues to fix.
Nine years after I bought bought that first pair of shoes, the rear view gait analysis is still the common practice in most running shops. It’s time for that to change.