Hip flexors do not initiate hip flexon.

We have been saying it in writing and podcasts for years, the hip flexors are limb swing phase PERPETUATORS, not initiators of hip flexion.
It is the elastic response discussed below and the changing of the pelvis obliquity (from posterior positioning to anterior) via the abdominal wall acting on the pelvis-hip interval in conjunction with the stance phase hip musculature that drives hip flexion.
The next time you go after the psoas as a culprit in your meanderings for solutions, because that is what is all over the internet, think bigger, smarter, deeper.

"These experiments also showed that the trailing leg is brought forward during the swing phase without activity in the flexor muscles about the hip joint. This was verified by the absence of EMG activity in the iliacus muscle measured by intramuscular wire electrodes. Instead the strong ligaments restricting hip joint extension are stretched during the first half of the swing phase thereby storing elastic energy, which is released during the last half of the stance phase and accelerating the leg into the swing phase. This is considered an important energy conserving feature of human walking."

Dan Med J. 2014 Apr;61(4):B4823.
Contributions to the understanding of gait control.
Simonsen EB1.

#thegaitguys, #hip, #hipflexors, #pelvismechanics, #swingphase, #gait, #gaitanalysis, #gaitproblems

Circumducting gait , at the ankle level ?


We often circumduct a leg to get around a clearance problem. Sometimes the clearance problem is the leg length itself, and sometimes it is a foot clearance issue, one that doesn't dorsiflex/toe extend enough.

This is what the foot clearance circumduction strategy looks like (more clear on the left foot). It is a heavy peroneal, tib anterior (more lateral belly, interosseous) and lesser toe extensor strategy. The foot clearly dorsiflexes and everts the rear and fore foot during early swing. It is not until just before heel strike that the tib anterior seem to jump in to do its primary job of dorsiflexion AND inversion.
Finding out why a client is circumducting this way is the key. It could be from the opposite hip abductors being weak, and it could be poor abdominal control on the same side, or it could be down in the foot (perhaps extensor hallucis/big toe extensor) and of highest suspect is a weak or motor pattern delayed tib anterior. Bad lazy habits can happen around trivial weakness, and then can mushroom into other bigger things.

Your exam will help you.
Seeing a problem in someones gait is not their problem, it is their strategy to get around the parts that are not working well.

shawn allen, the other gait guy

#gait, #gaitproblems, #gaitanalysis, #anklerocker, #ankledorsiflexion, #shinsplints, #swingphase, #thegaitguys, #circumductinggait

The hip flexors do not pull the leg forward during swing (mostly).

The hip flexors are not responsible for pulling/flexing the swing leg forward in gait or running. The psoas is a mere swing phase perpetuator, not an initiator.
For about 2 decades we have been saying in our lectures, posts and podcasts that it is the reduction of the obliquity of the pelvis during gait from various other tissues and biomechanical events that causes leg swing, meaning the trail leg is brought forward in swing largely by the abdominal muscle linkage to the pelvis (and other loaded tissues) that is responsible for forward swing of the leg. It is not the hip flexor group that does this hip flexion action. Thus it could be considered foolish to train the hip flexors to be the primary swing drivers. Here is another supporting piece of research.

"These experiments also showed that the trailing leg is brought forward during the swing phase without activity in the flexor muscles about the hip joint. This was verified by the absence of EMG activity in the iliacus muscle measured by intramuscular wire electrodes. Instead the strong ligaments restricting hip joint extension are stretched during the first half of the swing phase thereby storing elastic energy, which is released during the last half of the stance phase and accelerating the leg into the swing phase. This is considered an important energy conserving feature of human walking. "

Dan Med J. 2014 Apr;61(4):B4823.
Contributions to the understanding of gait control.
Simonsen EB1.

The gluteus medius is playing target practice.

Screen Shot 2018-02-22 at 1.57.58 PM.png

We think about the gluteus medius often, mostly, during stance phases of locomotion. But, do not forget about the absolutely necessary function of the gluteus medius on the swing limb. Foot placement of that swing leg is in part dictated by how well the pendulum leg receives gluteus medius control to abduct the leg. When it fails to abduct adequately, a more adducted/medial foot placement occurs. An agreeable balance between the abductors and adductors affords a more pure forward sagittal pendulum of the hinging leg. When imbalanced, from insufficient gmedius and the rest of the abductory team, the foot and leg can target a more medial pendulum swing and thus a more medial foot target placement. Thus, the gluteus medius is important in both the stance and swing phases of gait. We discussed this in the webinar last night. Failure to develop the skill, endurance and strength of the gluteus medius and related complex of muscles will often result in frontal plane pelvis drift on the stance limb, and adduction targeting of the foot. What is this called ? We call it the Cross Over gait and we have written oodles of articles about this gait phenomenon, more than anyone else we believe. It is real, it has economical advantages and similar liabilities. Want to learn more, type it into the SEARCH box on our website-blog. Many people this is a normal gait, how we should all run. We think like most things in this world, there is a benefit and a drawback to things, and it is how you use it, as long as you read the instructions. Sadly, we were never given our users manual when we were born. That is, in part, what we are trying to do here at . . . . www.thegaitguys.com

Podcast 109b “Shorts”: The gluteus medius during swing phase.

A 12 minute talk on what the swing leg does in gait, and what it has to do when we drift the pelvis in the frontal plane over the stance leg.
Ever find yourself kicking your opposite ankle ?  We have answers.
Join us for a rewind of an old 12 minute talk we had on what the glutes do in the swing phase.

Podcast links:

http://thegaitguys.libsyn.com/podcast-109b-shorts-the-swing-phase-use-of-the-gluteus-medius

http://traffic.libsyn.com/thegaitguys/pod_110shortfinal.mp3

Article link:

J Neurophysiol. 2014 Jul 15;112(2):374-83. doi: 10.1152/jn.00138.2014. Epub 2014 Apr 30. A neuromechanical strategy for mediolateral foot placement in walking humans.  Rankin BL

Other Gait Guys stuff

B. iTunes link:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-gait-guys-podcast/id559864138
C. Gait Guys online /download store (National Shoe Fit Certification & more !)
http://store.payloadz.com/results/results.aspx?m=80204
D. other web based Gait Guys lectures:
Monthly lectures at : www.onlinece.com type in Dr. Waerlop or Dr. Allen, ”Biomechanics”

-Our Book: Pedographs and Gait Analysis and Clinical Case Studies
Electronic copies available here:

-Amazon/Kindle:
http://www.amazon.com/Pedographs-Gait-Analysis-Clinical-Studies-ebook/dp/B00AC18M3E

-Barnes and Noble / Nook Reader:
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/pedographs-and-gait-analysis-ivo-waerlop-and-shawn-allen/1112754833?ean=9781466953895

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/pedographs-and-gait-analysis/id554516085?mt=11

-Hardcopy available from our publisher:
http://bookstore.trafford.com/Products/SKU-000155825/Pedographs-and-Gait-Analysis.aspx

Difficult hip presentations. Coordination of deep hip muscle activity is often altered in symptomatic femoroacetabular impingement (FAI).   If your clinic is anything like ours, you are regularly seeing failed therapy cases of hip pain walk into your clinic. Many of these cases have been diagnosed clinically or with imaging as FAI (femoral acetabular impingement (syndrome)). FAI can give all kinds of hip pain presentations around the front, side or back of the hip, groin and pelvis, even with referral into the knee. Lets make no mistake, these are difficult cases. The attached study suggests that these often difficult cases are fraught with undefined parameters. These cases can be difficult for us all, particularly if one do not have the clinical examination skills to tease out what muscles are not working, which ones are over working, what has happened to joint centration, how the client loads the hip, what the pelvis posturing attitude is and what motor stabilization strategies are being deployed. Lumbar, pelvis and hip posturing and stabilzation is key in understanding FAI and these often vague and frustrating cases. Determing how the client deploys stacking of the lower limb joints and how they then deploy these strategies in gait and running is paramount to your success in assisting these client cases. This is a deeply multifactorial problem and often why these issues do not get resolved.   Recently I just closed yet another case with a 21 year old female who had FAI and labral tear surgery 2 years ago. She had been told she would always have some pain and never run again. As many of these cases often proceed, after defining all of the issues above, it was clear she had many unaddressed components postoperatively. It appeared many components had not been addressed preoperatively, and had they been addressed, I suspect she may have not needed surgery. These multitudes of dysfunctional components can lead to FAI and labral damage. Many torn labrums do not need surgery, as evidenced by how many clients come out of surgery still having the same pre-operative pain as well as how many improve or resolve by a non-surgical approach to addressing all of the components above.  This study, by Diamond et al compared coordination of deep hip muscles between people with and without symptomatic FAI using analysis of muscle synergies (i.e. patterns of activity of groups of muscles activated in synchrony) during gait. The study utilized intramuscular fine-wire and surface electrodes EMG activity of selected deep and superficial hip muscles.   This study found a significant correlation with the quadratus femoris muscle, one we have repeatedly found problematic over the years. This study was nice to read, it confirmed many of the issues we have found rooted in these often difficult cases. The study surmised that      “coordination of deep hip muscles in the synergy related to hip joint control during early swing differed between groups. This phase involves movement towards the impingement position, which has relevance for the interpretation of synergy differences and potential clinical importance. ”     We strongly refer you back to our  podcast #99  to look into the gluteus medius during swing phase. This is a key component to one’s deeper understanding of how complex the hip works, during both stance and swing. We all tend to get too caught up in stance phase mechanics because that is the one we can see and assess most clearly, however, if one does not understand how vital the gluteus medius is in swing phase limb targeting through the sagittal plane, one is likely missing a big piece of a client’s clinical puzzle. One can do all the dynamic and functional movement and stabilization therapy they wish, but if one does not understand the swing phase mechanics, and perhaps most importantly, if one does not reteach a client how to make the necessary adaptive gait changes to employ the therapeutic work the changes remain on the therapy table and never cross over into functionally using them. The clinician must address the client’s previously deeply rooted gait motor program. A client may have in their bank account the new functional abilities they have been taught, but they likely have not been taught how to deploy them in a new more appropriate gait strategy.   -Dr. Shawn Allen   1. Coordination of deep hip muscle activity is altered in symptomatic femoroacetabular impingement. Laura E Diamond, Wolbert Van den Hoom, Kim L Bennell, Tim V Wrigley, Rana S Hinman, John O’ Donnell, Paul Hodges  2. J Neurophysiol. 2014 Jul 15;112(2):374-83. doi: 10.1152/jn.00138.2014. Epub 2014 Apr 30. A neuromechanical strategy for mediolateral foot placement in walking humans.  Rankin BL   3. Podcast 99: How foot placement, the glutes and cross over gait all come together and make sense.  4.  https://thegaitguys.tumblr.com/post/133206339519/podcast-99-how-foot-placement-the-glutes-and

Difficult hip presentations. Coordination of deep hip muscle activity is often altered in symptomatic femoroacetabular impingement (FAI).


If your clinic is anything like ours, you are regularly seeing failed therapy cases of hip pain walk into your clinic. Many of these cases have been diagnosed clinically or with imaging as FAI (femoral acetabular impingement (syndrome)). FAI can give all kinds of hip pain presentations around the front, side or back of the hip, groin and pelvis, even with referral into the knee. Lets make no mistake, these are difficult cases.
The attached study suggests that these often difficult cases are fraught with undefined parameters. These cases can be difficult for us all, particularly if one do not have the clinical examination skills to tease out what muscles are not working, which ones are over working, what has happened to joint centration, how the client loads the hip, what the pelvis posturing attitude is and what motor stabilization strategies are being deployed. Lumbar, pelvis and hip posturing and stabilzation is key in understanding FAI and these often vague and frustrating cases. Determing how the client deploys stacking of the lower limb joints and how they then deploy these strategies in gait and running is paramount to your success in assisting these client cases. This is a deeply multifactorial problem and often why these issues do not get resolved. 

Recently I just closed yet another case with a 21 year old female who had FAI and labral tear surgery 2 years ago. She had been told she would always have some pain and never run again. As many of these cases often proceed, after defining all of the issues above, it was clear she had many unaddressed components postoperatively. It appeared many components had not been addressed preoperatively, and had they been addressed, I suspect she may have not needed surgery. These multitudes of dysfunctional components can lead to FAI and labral damage. Many torn labrums do not need surgery, as evidenced by how many clients come out of surgery still having the same pre-operative pain as well as how many improve or resolve by a non-surgical approach to addressing all of the components above.

This study, by Diamond et al compared coordination of deep hip muscles between people with and without symptomatic FAI using analysis of muscle synergies (i.e. patterns of activity of groups of muscles activated in synchrony) during gait. The study utilized intramuscular fine-wire and surface electrodes EMG activity of selected deep and superficial hip muscles.  
This study found a significant correlation with the quadratus femoris muscle, one we have repeatedly found problematic over the years. This study was nice to read, it confirmed many of the issues we have found rooted in these often difficult cases. The study surmised that 

“coordination of deep hip muscles in the synergy related to hip joint control during early swing differed between groups. This phase involves movement towards the impingement position, which has relevance for the interpretation of synergy differences and potential clinical importance. ”

We strongly refer you back to our podcast #99 to look into the gluteus medius during swing phase. This is a key component to one’s deeper understanding of how complex the hip works, during both stance and swing. We all tend to get too caught up in stance phase mechanics because that is the one we can see and assess most clearly, however, if one does not understand how vital the gluteus medius is in swing phase limb targeting through the sagittal plane, one is likely missing a big piece of a client’s clinical puzzle. One can do all the dynamic and functional movement and stabilization therapy they wish, but if one does not understand the swing phase mechanics, and perhaps most importantly, if one does not reteach a client how to make the necessary adaptive gait changes to employ the therapeutic work the changes remain on the therapy table and never cross over into functionally using them. The clinician must address the client’s previously deeply rooted gait motor program. A client may have in their bank account the new functional abilities they have been taught, but they likely have not been taught how to deploy them in a new more appropriate gait strategy. 

-Dr. Shawn Allen


1. Coordination of deep hip muscle activity is altered in symptomatic femoroacetabular impingement.
Laura E Diamond, Wolbert Van den Hoom, Kim L Bennell, Tim V Wrigley, Rana S Hinman, John O’ Donnell, Paul Hodges

2. J Neurophysiol. 2014 Jul 15;112(2):374-83. doi: 10.1152/jn.00138.2014. Epub 2014 Apr 30. A neuromechanical strategy for mediolateral foot placement in walking humans.  Rankin BL

3. Podcast 99: How foot placement, the glutes and cross over gait all come together and make sense.

4. https://thegaitguys.tumblr.com/post/133206339519/podcast-99-how-foot-placement-the-glutes-and


Podcast #99: How foot placement, the glutes and cross over gait all come together and make sense.

Topics: Plus, How foot placement, the glutes and cross over gait all come together and make sense. Plus, discussions on vibration,proprioception, cerebellum and movement.

Show Sponsors:

*newbalancechicago.com

*Rocktape.com

A. Link to our server: http://traffic.libsyn.com/thegaitguys/pod_99final.mp3

Podcast Direct Download: http://thegaitguys.libsyn.com/podcast-99-how-foot-placement-the-glutes-and-cross-over-gait-all-come-together-and-make-sense

Other Gait Guys stuff

B. iTunes link:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-gait-guys-podcast/id559864138
C. Gait Guys online /download store (National Shoe Fit Certification & more !)
http://store.payloadz.com/results/results.aspx?m=80204
D. other web based Gait Guys lectures:
Monthly lectures at : www.onlinece.com type in Dr. Waerlop or Dr. Allen, ”Biomechanics”

-Our Book: Pedographs and Gait Analysis and Clinical Case Studies
Electronic copies available here:

-Amazon/Kindle:
http://www.amazon.com/Pedographs-Gait-Analysis-Clinical-Studies-ebook/dp/B00AC18M3E

-Barnes and Noble / Nook Reader:
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/pedographs-and-gait-analysis-ivo-waerlop-and-shawn-allen/1112754833?ean=9781466953895

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/pedographs-and-gait-analysis/id554516085?mt=11

-Hardcopy available from our publisher:
http://bookstore.trafford.com/Products/SKU-000155825/Pedographs-and-Gait-Analysis.aspx

Show notes:

Evaluating the Differential Electrophysiological Effects of the Focal Vibrator on the Tendon and Muscle Belly in Healthy People ARTICLE in ANNALS OF REHABILITATION MEDICINE · AUGUST 2014 DOI: 10.5535/arm.2014.38.4.494 · Source: PubMed

J Neurophysiol. 2014 Jul 15;112(2):374-83. doi: 10.1152/jn.00138.2014. Epub 2014 Apr 30. A neuromechanical strategy for mediolateral foot placement in walking humans.  Rankin BL

J Neurophysiol. 2015 Oct;114(4):2220-9. doi: 10.1152/jn.00551.2015. Epub 2015 Aug 19.

Hip proprioceptive feedback influences the control of mediolateral stability during human walking.

Roden-Reynolds DC1, Walker MH1, Wasserman CR1, Dean JC2.

Eur Spine J. 2015 May 26. [Epub ahead of print]
Prevalence of gluteus medius weakness in people with chronic low back pain compared to healthy controls.
Cooper NA1, Scavo KM, Strickland KJ, Tipayamongkol N, Nicholson JD, Bewyer DC, Sluka KA.

Prog Brain Res. 2004;143:353-66. Role of the cerebellum in the control and adaptation of gait in health and disease. Thach WT1, Bastian AJ.

You’d have to be smart to walk this lazy, and people are

Research suggests that humans are wired for laziness

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150910131451.htm#.VfWquNKaf3s.facebook

Jessica C. Selinger, Shawn M. O’Connor, Jeremy D. Wong, J. Maxwell Donelan. Humans Can Continuously Optimize Energetic Cost during Walking. Current Biology, 2015; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.08.016

The “Dodgy Foot”, a UK runner’s dilemma.   We get “help me” emails from all over the world on a regular basis. Recently we received this photo from a runner in Oxford, UK,  The runner was frustrated, explaining a “dodgy foot”.  We like the word.      dodg·y    däjē/      -dishonest or unreliable;   potentially dangerous;   of low quality.     We can guarantee you that the solution here to this runner’s form issue is not wholly at the foot which appears “in toed” and slanted and appears ready to kick the back of the right heel, not to mention the knees that are about to brush together.  Thus, merely working on their foot strike would be so remedial and corrupt that it would a crime.   Ivo and I do not take on cases via the internet because we cannot give all the information because we cannot examine the client, many do offer such services but people are not being given the whole story and we pledged long ago not to be part of the problem.  Anyone who recommends exercises from things they see on a video gait analysis are basically doing the same disservice in our opinion. But sometimes, as in this case, their inquiry is simple, there is a photo or video and it allows us to highlight an important component of an individuals gait which can lead them on a road to appropriate discovery. This is one of those cases.  I will not be presenting a solution, because I do not have the examination information I need, but I will propose a solid thought process that further investigation may afford progress towards resolution.  This is a non-pathologic cross over gait in my mind until proven otherwise, there may be other sources, causes and components, but when it quacks like a duck you’d be silly not to check for webbed feet. This runner even confirmed upon questioning that the left foot scuffs the inside of the right ankle/shin often, both sides scuff in fact but more left shoe on right shin. No Einsteinian epiphany there.    This means a narrow swing through  (adducting) left limb.   This means stance and swing phase gluteus medius communication problems.   This means swing leg foot targeting problems.   This often suggests right, but sometimes both right and left, frontal plane pelvis sway problems which means pelvis control is challenged which means core lumbar stability control is challenged.   This means adaptive arm swing changes from the clean norm.    This does NOT mean this runner has pain, or pain yet, or maybe never will have pain but there are many determinants of that which I will discuss below.    But, make no mistake, this is flawed gait mechanics. The left swing leg is clearly targeting a more medial placement, meaning limb adduction (active or passive or both is to be determined) and this is a product of the cross over gait   (unfamiliar with the cross over gait ? SEARCH our blog for the term, you will need a few hours of free time to get through it all)  .  Some would call the cross over gait a lazy gait, but I would rather term it  an efficient gait taken too far that it has now become a liability , a liability in which they can no longer stabilize frontal plane sway/drift. A wider gait on the other hand, as in most sprinters, is less efficient but may procure more power and the wider base is more stable affording less frontal plane drift. Just go walk around your home and move from a very narrow line walking gait to a wide gait and you will feel a more powerful engagement of the glutes. Mind you, this is not a fix for cross over gaits, gosh, if it was only that simple !  This runner must investigate whether there is right frontal plane drift, and if it is in fact occurring, find the source of the drift.  It can come from many places on either limb. (This client says they are scuffing both inside ankles, which is not atypical and so we likely have drift on both right and left). We have discussed many of them here in various places on the blog over the years. Now as for “Why” the foot looks in toed, well that can also come from many places. Quite simply the adducted limb once it leaves toe off can look like this. But, perhaps it is also a product of insufficient external rotation maintenance occurred during that left stance phase, affording more internal rotation which is being unchecked and observed here during early swing.  Remember though, if this is in fact a cross over gait result, in this gait the limb approaches the ground unstacked (foot is too far inside a left hip joint plumb line) the foot will greet the ground at a far lateral strike and in supination.  Pronation will thus be magnified and accelerated, if there is enough time before toe off. However, and you can try this on your own by walking around your home, put yourself in terminal stance at toe off. Make sure you have the foot inverted so you are toeing off the lateral toes (low gear toe off). Does this foot not look like the one in the photo ? Yes it does, now just lift the foot off the ground and you have reproduced this photo. And when combined with a right pelvis drift, the foot will sneak further medially appearing postured behind the right foot.   Keep this in mind as well, final pronation and efficient hallux (big toe) toe off does often not occur in someone who strikes the ground on a far lateral foot. I am sure this runner will now be aware of how poorly they toe off of the big toe, the hallux.  They will tend to progress towards low gear toe off, off the lesser toes. This leaves the foot inverted and this is what you are seeing in her the photo above. That is a foot that is inverted and supinated and it carried through all the way through toe off and into early swing. It is a frequently component of the cross over gait, look for it, you will find it, often.   Final thoughts, certainly this can be an isolated left swing phase gluteus medius weakness enabling an adducted swing limb thus procuring a faulty medial foot placement, but it is still part of the cross over phenomenon.  Most things when it comes to a linked human frame do not work in isolation.  But i will leave you with a complicating factor and hopefully you will realize that gait analysis truly does require a physical exam, and without it you could be missing the big picture problem.   What if she has a notable fixed anatomic internal tibia torsion on that left side. Yup, it could all be that simple, and that is not something you can fix, you learn to manage that one as a runner.       * Side bar rant: Look at any google search of runners photos and you will see this type of swing limb foot posturing often, far too often.  And yes, you can take the stance that “I do it as well and i have no injuries or problems so what is the big deal?”.  Our response is often “you do have an issue, it may be anatomic or functional, but you do have an asymmetrical gait and you think it is not a problem, YET”. And maybe you will run till you are 6 feet under and not have a problem because you have accomodated over many years and you are a great compensator, yes, some people get lucky. Some people also do not run enough miles that these issues express themselves clinically so lets be fair. But some of these people are reality deniers and spend their life buying the newest brace or gadget, trying a different shoe insert, orthotic or new shoe of the month and shop over and over again for another video gait analysis expert who can actually fix their pain or problem. And then there are those who have a 45 minute home exercise program that they need to do to keep their problems at bay, managing, not fixing anything.  Or, they spend an hour a week on the web reading article after article on what are the top 4 exercises for iliotibial band syndrome for example. They shop for the newest Graston practitioner, the newest kinesio taping pattern, Voodoo bands, breathing patterns, compression socks etc.  And sometimes they are the ones that say they still dont have a problem.You get the drift.  Gosh darn it, find someone who knows what the hell they are doing and can help you fix the issues that are causing the problem.  And yes, some of the above accoutrements may be assistive in that journey.     I have dealt with this unique toe off issue way too many times not to roll my eyes at it any longer. It is to the point that it is an automated evaluation and solution program that begins to run in my head. Once you see something enough times, you learn all of the variations and subtle nuiances that a problem can take on. But, trying to fit everyone into a similar solution model is where the novice coach, trainer or clinician will get into trouble. Trust us, it all starts with an examination, a true clinical physical examination.  If one leaves the investigatory process to a series of screens or functional movement patterns, “activation” attempts, digital gait analysis or strength tests one is juggling chainsaws and the outcome you want is often not likely to occur. There is nothing wrong with making these components part of the investigation process, but on their own, they are not enough to get the honest answer many times.  Of course, Ivo and i were not able to jump the pond and examine this runner with our own eyes and hands so today’s dialogue was merely to offer this runner some food for thought to open their mind to our thought process, in the hopes that they can find someone to help them solve the underlying problem and not merely make the gait look cleaner. Making someone’s walking or running gait look cleaner is not hard, but making it subconsciously competent and clean (without thought or effort) requires a fix to the underlying problem. We can ALMOST guarantee you that the solution here to this runner’s form issue is not wholly at the foot that looks in toed and slanted. Merely working on their foot strike would be so remedial and corrupt that it would a crime.   Dr. Shawn Allen, one of the gait guys

The “Dodgy Foot”, a UK runner’s dilemma.

We get “help me” emails from all over the world on a regular basis. Recently we received this photo from a runner in Oxford, UK,  The runner was frustrated, explaining a “dodgy foot”.  We like the word. 

dodg·y    däjē/

-dishonest or unreliable; potentially dangerous; of low quality.

We can guarantee you that the solution here to this runner’s form issue is not wholly at the foot which appears “in toed” and slanted and appears ready to kick the back of the right heel, not to mention the knees that are about to brush together.  Thus, merely working on their foot strike would be so remedial and corrupt that it would a crime. 

Ivo and I do not take on cases via the internet because we cannot give all the information because we cannot examine the client, many do offer such services but people are not being given the whole story and we pledged long ago not to be part of the problem.  Anyone who recommends exercises from things they see on a video gait analysis are basically doing the same disservice in our opinion. But sometimes, as in this case, their inquiry is simple, there is a photo or video and it allows us to highlight an important component of an individuals gait which can lead them on a road to appropriate discovery. This is one of those cases.  I will not be presenting a solution, because I do not have the examination information I need, but I will propose a solid thought process that further investigation may afford progress towards resolution.

This is a non-pathologic cross over gait in my mind until proven otherwise, there may be other sources, causes and components, but when it quacks like a duck you’d be silly not to check for webbed feet. This runner even confirmed upon questioning that the left foot scuffs the inside of the right ankle/shin often, both sides scuff in fact but more left shoe on right shin. No Einsteinian epiphany there. 

  • This means a narrow swing through  (adducting) left limb. 
  • This means stance and swing phase gluteus medius communication problems. 
  • This means swing leg foot targeting problems. 
  • This often suggests right, but sometimes both right and left, frontal plane pelvis sway problems which means pelvis control is challenged which means core lumbar stability control is challenged. 
  • This means adaptive arm swing changes from the clean norm.  
  • This does NOT mean this runner has pain, or pain yet, or maybe never will have pain but there are many determinants of that which I will discuss below. 

But, make no mistake, this is flawed gait mechanics. The left swing leg is clearly targeting a more medial placement, meaning limb adduction (active or passive or both is to be determined) and this is a product of the cross over gait (unfamiliar with the cross over gait ? SEARCH our blog for the term, you will need a few hours of free time to get through it all).  Some would call the cross over gait a lazy gait, but I would rather term it an efficient gait taken too far that it has now become a liability, a liability in which they can no longer stabilize frontal plane sway/drift. A wider gait on the other hand, as in most sprinters, is less efficient but may procure more power and the wider base is more stable affording less frontal plane drift. Just go walk around your home and move from a very narrow line walking gait to a wide gait and you will feel a more powerful engagement of the glutes. Mind you, this is not a fix for cross over gaits, gosh, if it was only that simple !

This runner must investigate whether there is right frontal plane drift, and if it is in fact occurring, find the source of the drift.  It can come from many places on either limb. (This client says they are scuffing both inside ankles, which is not atypical and so we likely have drift on both right and left). We have discussed many of them here in various places on the blog over the years. Now as for “Why” the foot looks in toed, well that can also come from many places. Quite simply the adducted limb once it leaves toe off can look like this. But, perhaps it is also a product of insufficient external rotation maintenance occurred during that left stance phase, affording more internal rotation which is being unchecked and observed here during early swing.  Remember though, if this is in fact a cross over gait result, in this gait the limb approaches the ground unstacked (foot is too far inside a left hip joint plumb line) the foot will greet the ground at a far lateral strike and in supination.  Pronation will thus be magnified and accelerated, if there is enough time before toe off. However, and you can try this on your own by walking around your home, put yourself in terminal stance at toe off. Make sure you have the foot inverted so you are toeing off the lateral toes (low gear toe off). Does this foot not look like the one in the photo ? Yes it does, now just lift the foot off the ground and you have reproduced this photo. And when combined with a right pelvis drift, the foot will sneak further medially appearing postured behind the right foot. 

Keep this in mind as well, final pronation and efficient hallux (big toe) toe off does often not occur in someone who strikes the ground on a far lateral foot. I am sure this runner will now be aware of how poorly they toe off of the big toe, the hallux.  They will tend to progress towards low gear toe off, off the lesser toes. This leaves the foot inverted and this is what you are seeing in her the photo above. That is a foot that is inverted and supinated and it carried through all the way through toe off and into early swing. It is a frequently component of the cross over gait, look for it, you will find it, often. 

Final thoughts, certainly this can be an isolated left swing phase gluteus medius weakness enabling an adducted swing limb thus procuring a faulty medial foot placement, but it is still part of the cross over phenomenon.  Most things when it comes to a linked human frame do not work in isolation.  But i will leave you with a complicating factor and hopefully you will realize that gait analysis truly does require a physical exam, and without it you could be missing the big picture problem.  What if she has a notable fixed anatomic internal tibia torsion on that left side. Yup, it could all be that simple, and that is not something you can fix, you learn to manage that one as a runner.  

* Side bar rant: Look at any google search of runners photos and you will see this type of swing limb foot posturing often, far too often.  And yes, you can take the stance that “I do it as well and i have no injuries or problems so what is the big deal?”.  Our response is often “you do have an issue, it may be anatomic or functional, but you do have an asymmetrical gait and you think it is not a problem, YET”. And maybe you will run till you are 6 feet under and not have a problem because you have accomodated over many years and you are a great compensator, yes, some people get lucky. Some people also do not run enough miles that these issues express themselves clinically so lets be fair. But some of these people are reality deniers and spend their life buying the newest brace or gadget, trying a different shoe insert, orthotic or new shoe of the month and shop over and over again for another video gait analysis expert who can actually fix their pain or problem. And then there are those who have a 45 minute home exercise program that they need to do to keep their problems at bay, managing, not fixing anything.  Or, they spend an hour a week on the web reading article after article on what are the top 4 exercises for iliotibial band syndrome for example. They shop for the newest Graston practitioner, the newest kinesio taping pattern, Voodoo bands, breathing patterns, compression socks etc.  And sometimes they are the ones that say they still dont have a problem.You get the drift.  Gosh darn it, find someone who knows what the hell they are doing and can help you fix the issues that are causing the problem.  And yes, some of the above accoutrements may be assistive in that journey. 

I have dealt with this unique toe off issue way too many times not to roll my eyes at it any longer. It is to the point that it is an automated evaluation and solution program that begins to run in my head. Once you see something enough times, you learn all of the variations and subtle nuiances that a problem can take on. But, trying to fit everyone into a similar solution model is where the novice coach, trainer or clinician will get into trouble. Trust us, it all starts with an examination, a true clinical physical examination.  If one leaves the investigatory process to a series of screens or functional movement patterns, “activation” attempts, digital gait analysis or strength tests one is juggling chainsaws and the outcome you want is often not likely to occur. There is nothing wrong with making these components part of the investigation process, but on their own, they are not enough to get the honest answer many times.  Of course, Ivo and i were not able to jump the pond and examine this runner with our own eyes and hands so today’s dialogue was merely to offer this runner some food for thought to open their mind to our thought process, in the hopes that they can find someone to help them solve the underlying problem and not merely make the gait look cleaner. Making someone’s walking or running gait look cleaner is not hard, but making it subconsciously competent and clean (without thought or effort) requires a fix to the underlying problem. We can ALMOST guarantee you that the solution here to this runner’s form issue is not wholly at the foot that looks in toed and slanted. Merely working on their foot strike would be so remedial and corrupt that it would a crime.

Dr. Shawn Allen, one of the gait guys

Psoas, iliacus. . . .  hip flexors ?

How many times have you heard us say, “hip flexion in the swing phase of gait is not driven by the hip flexors. In swing phase, the psoas and iliacus complex is not a hip flexor initiator, it is a hip flexion perpetuator/” ?
More evidence … . .
“These experiments also showed that the trailing leg is brought forward during the swing phase without activity in the flexor muscles about the hip joint. This was verified by the absence of EMG activity in the iliacus muscle measured by intramuscular wire electrodes. Instead the strong ligaments restricting hip joint extension are stretched during the first half of the swing phase thereby storing elastic energy, which is released during the last half of the stance phase and accelerating the leg into the swing phase. This is considered an important energy conserving feature of human walking. ”

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24814597

Foot Clearance: We don't think about it until we are face down in the mud, and we have all been there.

How many times have you tripped over something so small and insignificant you can barely believe it ? We have all tripped over a small elevation in a cracked sidewalk or a curled up rug corner.  But sometimes we look back and there is no evidence of a culprit, not even a Hobbit or an elf.  How can this happen ?
Minimum foot clearance (MFC) is defined as the minimum vertical distance between the lowest point of the foot of the swing leg and the walking surface during the swing phase of the gait cycle. In other simpler words, the minimum height all parts of the foot need to clear the ground to progress through the swing phase of the limb without contacting the ground. One could justify that getting as close to this minimal amount without catching the foot is most mechanically advantageous.  But, how close to vulnerability are you willing to get ? And as you age, do you even want to enter the danger zone ? Obviously, insufficient clearance is linked to tripping and falling, which is most concerning in the elderly. 
Trips or falls from insufficient foot clearance can be related to insufficient hallux and toe(s) dorsiflexion (extension), ankle dorsiflexion, knee flexion and/or hip flexion, failure to maintain ipsilateral pelvis neutral ( anterior/posterior pelvis posture shifting), even insufficient hip hike generated by the contralateral hip abductors, namely the gluteus medius in most people’s minds. It can also be from an obvious failed concerted effort of all of the above. Note that some of these biomechanical events are sagittal and some are frontal plane.  However, do not ever forget that the swing leg is moving through the axial plane, supported in part by the abdominal wall, starting from a posteriorly obliqued pelvis at swing initiation into an anteriorly obliqued position at terminal swing. We would be remiss as well if we did not ask the reader to consider the “inverted pendulum theory” effect of controlling the dynamically moving torso over the fixed stance phase leg (yes, we could have said “core stability” but that is so flippantly used these days that many lose appreciation for really what is happening dynamically in human locomotion).  If each component is even slightly insufficient, a summation can lead to failed foot clearance.  This is why a total body examination is necessary, every time, and its why the exclusive use of video gait analysis alone will fail every time in finding the culprit(s). 
When we examine people we all tend to look for biomechanical issues unless one grasps the greater global picture of how the body must work as a whole. When one trips we first tend to look for an external source as the cause such as a turned up rug or an object, but there are plentiful internal causes as well. For example, we have this blog post on people tripping on subway stairs.  In this case, there was a change in the perceptual height of the stairs because of a subconscious, learned and engaged sensory-motor behavior of prior steps upward.  However, do not discount direct, peripheral and lower fields of view vision changes or challenges when it comes to trips and falls. Do not forget to consider vestibular components, illumination and gait speed variables as well.  Even the most subtle change in the environment (transitions from tile to carpet, transitions from treadmill to ground walking etc) can cause a trip or fall if it is subtle enough to avoid detection, especially if one is skirting the edge of MFC (minimal foot clearance) already. And, remember this, gait has components of both anticipatory and reactive adjustments, any sensory-motor adaptive changes that impair the speed, calculation and timely integration of these adjustments can change gait behaviors. Sometimes even perceived fall or trip risk in a client can easily slip them into a shorter step/stride length to encourage less single leg stance phase and more double support phase gait. This occurs often in the elderly. This can be met with a reduced minimal foot clearance by design which in itself can increase risk, especially at the moment of transition from a larger step length to a shorter one. Understanding all age-related and non-age related effects on lower limb trajectory variables as described above and only help the clinician become more competent in gait analysis of your client and in understanding the critical variables that are challenging them. 
Many studies indicate that variability and consistency in a motor pattern such as those necessary for foot clearance are huge keys for predictable patterns and injury prevention, and in this case a predictor for trips and falls.  Barrett’s study concluded that “greater MFC variability was observed in older compared to younger adults and older fallers compared to older non-fallers in the majority of studies. Greater MFC variability may contribute to increased risk of trips and associated falls in older compared to young adults and older fallers compared to older non-fallers.”
Once again we outline our mission, to enlighten everyone into the complexities of gait and how gait is all encompassing.  There are so many variables to gait, many of which will never be noted, detected or reflected on a gait analysis and a camera.  Don’t be a minimalist when it comes to evaluating your client’s gait, simply using a treadmill, a camera and some elaborate computer software are not often going to cut the mustard when it really counts.  A knowledgeable and engaged brain are arguably your best gait analysis tools.  
Remember, what you see in someone’s gait is not their problem, it is their adaptive strategy(s).  That is all you are seeing on your camera and computer screen, compensations, not the source of the problem(s).
Shawn and Ivo
the gait guys

References (some of them): 

1. Gait Posture. 2010 Oct;32(4):429-35. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2010.07.010. Epub 2010 Aug 7.

A systematic review of the effect of ageing and falls history on minimum foot clearance characteristics during level walking. Barrett RS1, Mills PM, Begg RK.

2. Gait Posture. 2007 Feb;25(2):191-8. Epub 2006 May 4. Minimum foot clearance during walking: strategies for the minimisation of trip-related falls. Begg R1, Best R, Dell’Oro L, Taylor S.

3. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2011 Nov;26(9):962-8. doi: 10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2011.05.013. Epub 2011 Jun 29. Ageing and limb dominance effects on foot-ground clearance during treadmill and overground walking. Nagano H1, Begg RK, Sparrow WA, Taylor S.

4. Acta Bioeng Biomech. 2014;16(1):3-9. Differences in gait pattern between the elderly and the young during level walking under low illumination. Choi JS, Kang DW, Shin YH, Tack GR.