How Gait Affects Foot Health

by | Aug 9, 2017

Even though it sounds like a highly technical term, “biomechanics” simply refers to the way that living beings (including you) move. Every one of us relies on countless biomechanical processes to do, well, pretty much everything we do on a daily basis. Even reading this blog post requires at least some biomechanical effort on your part!

This is important as we look at how gait affects foot health, and what can be done when problems arise. If you aren’t familiar with the term, gait is how we walk. Whereas people generally all have the same basic way of walking—one foot goes forward, arms swing, etc.—there are subtle (if not overt) differences in everyone’s gait pattern.

Gait is a biomechanical process that can be affected by an array of factors like inherited foot structure, neurological conditions, physical injury, and even aging. Of course, it can also have an effect on things like how connective tissues pull or how much force needs to be absorbed by certain areas of the foot.

One component of your gait pattern that is particularly worth discussing when it comes to potential foot problems is pronation. If you are a runner, you might already know about pronation; if not, we can sum it up as an inwards rolling motion your foot performs during the ground portion—from heel strike all the way through the toes pushing off the ground—of a step.

The degree of inward roll your foot is supposed to go through is around fifteen percent. More than that is known as overpronation. This condition is common to individuals who have low or flat foot arches. Overpronation can cause pain in the arches, but also further up into the ankle, knee, hip, and even lower back.

We mentioned just a little bit ago about gait affecting how much force is absorbed by specific areas, and this is important to know if you are diabetic. With a natural, neutral structure and gait pattern, the pressure is distributed in a fairly equitable manner across the entire foot. When gait issues disrupt this, too much concentrated force can lead to problems that contribute to Charcot foot and can cause dangerous diabetic foot ulcers.

If a gait irregularity is negatively affecting your foot health, we may be able to correct the problem with custom orthotics. These medical devices are crafted to work with your unique gait and foot structure, correct abnormal biomechanics, and can offload pressure from areas not naturally equipped to handle it.

When gait abnormalities are causing problems for your feet and ankles, Wisconsin Foot Center is ready to help. Contact our Hales Corners office today and request an appointment. We will determine the root cause of your foot or ankle pain—perhaps with the use of gait analysis—and then create a customized plan to resolve it for you. Call us at (414) 425-8400 and one of our staff members will be glad to answer any questions you might have and help you arrange your visit with us.

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