Should I change how I walk or run?

We regularly get people asking should they change their gait pattern – be it how they walk or how they run. The first thing I always ask is why? Why do you think there is a need to change and what do you think there is to be gained? Answers to this question vary and tend to guide my answer.

Once there is no pain when walking/running, then the majority of the time my answer is no, you should not change how you walk/run! As many people I speak to ask this question as someone told them to do so either to ‘improve their performance’ or because their current movement pattern just ‘does not look right’. 

If you attempt to change your gait pattern you will more than likely begin to develop pains or injuries that never before were an issue. This is because your body moves in its individual optimal form and changing that will cause excess load through areas that cannot tolerate it. It also takes a huge amount of brain power to begin changing how you move, so in turn, your performance e.g. speed, will decrease as you are putting so much concentration in changing the natural pattern. 

As a good example, I always say that if you were to examine some of the fastest athletes in the world and how they move, their gait pattern or their general form varies hugely and a lot of the time it is far from the ‘ideal’ that is promoted.

However, my answer will change to a maybe if you currently are experiencing pain or discomfort when walking or running. It is in these circumstances that a physiotherapy assessment plays an important role in identifying the cause of your pain. Please note I said maybe and not a definite yes! – a lot of the time, our assessments identify areas of weakness or other issues that may be causing the pain and once these are resolved then your gait pattern will not have a role to play!

So what is the take home message?

The majority of time, you will not need to change your running or walking pattern as it will likely just end up causing you more issues. If you are currently experiencing pain when out walking or running then a physio session will help identify the root of your problem and get you back moving pain free!

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