How to Determine Your Running Gait—and Why It Matters
Whether you're a running newbie or a marathoner, this could make a huge difference in your training
In theory, running seems like the simplest form of exercise: You lace up your shoes and hit the pavement (or the treadmill). But without a proper understanding of your own running mechanics, you might be doing your body a disservice-and potentially setting yourself up for injury. It is common for runners to not know how their stride are and where the foot lands
What Is Running Gait, Anyway?
Essentially, your gait is your manner of moving on foot. (think of how you might be able to spot a friend from a distance by the way she walks), understanding your gait-which is first developed, crazy enough, when you learn to crawl as a baby-and where you fall on the scale can be a useful tool for helping you run more adeptly.
Running gait is broken down into three types of pronation or how your foot strikes the ground.
- Neutral/normal pronation is when your foot comes in complete contact with the ground, rolling inward about 15 percent to absorb shock.
- Underpromotion or supination is when the outer part of your heel hits the ground first, and your foot rolls inward at less than 15 percent.
- Overpronation occurs when your foot rolls inward more than 15 percent, which can cause stability issues with your foot and ankle.
So why should you even care? When shopping for running shoes it's helpful to have an understanding of your gait, as it will affect which shoes will enhance-rather than hinder-your performance.
How to Check Your Running Gait
If you're serious about running, the best way to zero in on your gait is to visit a specialty running store where an expert can analyze your form as you run on a treadmill. For beginners, though, home is a great place to start.
The easiest way to determine your gait is to have a friend watch you run from behind, if your knees are coming in, you're overpronating; if they're turning out slightly, you're under pronating.
Keep track of your aches and pains: It also helps to keep record of your running history. Record when you run and how you felt afterward: Did you have pain on the inside of your shins or knees? If so, you might be overpronating. Pain in your ankles can signal under pronation.
Check out your soles: Take note of the wear pattern on your current running shoes, too. Does the inside tip of the shoe look worn? If so, that's a sign you're overpronating. Under pronators will notice more wear on the outer edge of their shoes. You can also line up your well-worn kicks and look at them from behind-do they appear to tilt outward or inward, or sit flat?
Luckily, You Don't have to Change Your Gait
Now that you know a little more about how you run, use that info to your advantage. Understanding your gait can help you run longer, stronger, and injury-free. Regardless of what you learn, there's really no reason to try to correct your gait; science says the best running stride is the one that comes naturally to you.
When selecting a running shoe, "the principles of a shoe should be to allow your foot to behave like a foot under the conditions that you are using it in.
Another thing to keep in mind, is that you're not the same size in running shoes as you are in a heel or slip-on shoe. "It's not uncommon, especially in women, for their running shoes to be too small," she says. A helpful tip: When trying on shoes, make sure you have a thumbnail of room from your longest toe to the top of the shoe.