What are the benefits of gait retraining and can it reduce the risk of injury?
The idea behind gait retraining is to change elements of your running gait technique or style in order to effect a change, leading either to improvements in performance or a reduction in the risk of injury. As runners we are often obsessed with the way we run and it can be quite fun to put our running under the lens, often finding we don’t run like we thought we did – A recent study found that over 80% of runners wrongly assessed their running style.
Can running gait retraining stop me from getting injured?
Gait retraining can be a useful tool to identify any weaknesses or inequalities in the body which may be contributing to or increasing the risk of certain injuries, for example weakness in the glutes causing a narrow crossover gait which can contribute to shin splints, or overstriding increasing loads through the knee aggravating patellofemoral pain or runners knee, and simple exercises and running drills such as reducing running stride length or running wider can help to change forces through the body, reducing stress on those areas.
Are there any disadvantages?
It is important to understand however that if you change technique reducing loads on a particular part of the body you simply shift them somewhere else. There is no such thing as a free lunch. And it is important that the part of the body that now has increased loads going through it is able to tolerate those loads, otherwise you will just get an injury somewhere else!
For this reason it is very important to make changes gradually, allowing the body to adjust. Evolution rather than revolution. This is best done under supervision so that any problems can be dealt with before they become major issues.
I use gait retraining regularly in my practice as an excellent tool to educate and make small changes to a runners style in order to promote recovery and reduce injury risk. However at the end of the day running is a natural activity which we all learn to do early in life, and not every runner needs to change. Provided you are happy with your running goals and are staying injury free you do not need to make any changes. If it aint broke, don’t fix it! However, if you are struggling with repetitive injury and seem to be hitting a brick wall with your running goals, it might be time to pick up that phone!