Gait Analysis: The Serious Runner's Salvation

A Tool to Precisely Spot Stride Problems and Stop Joint Pain and Injury

The Wall Street Journal—September 22, 2014

People who lace up their running shoes and pound the pavement have a roughly 50% chance of sustaining an injury that interrupts their training. Among marathon runners, studies have placed the injury incidence rate significantly higher, in some cases as high as 90%.


Watch Video: Gait Analysis at HSS

WSJ's Matthew Futterman participates in a gait analysis at Manhattan's Hospital for Surgery
to learn how he may be able to prevent some running injuries.

It isn't running itself that's doing the damage, a growing number of physicians, physical therapists and exercise scientists say. It's the way people run. Too many runners stride too far out in front of their bodies, or land with their legs at awkward angles.

Anne-Michelle Barrett, a personal trainer and triathlon coach who lives in Sausalito, Calif., suffered a stress fracture in her left shin in 2010, then one in her right shin at the beginning of 2013. She says she wasn't overtraining. She rested and wore an orthopedic boot for six weeks in 2010 and four weeks in 2013.

"I coach running, personal training and triathlon, and even I was still struggling," says Ms. Barrett, 37.

Desperate to figure out what was causing the injuries, she signed up for a gait analysis at New York City's Hospital for Special Surgery with Michael Silverman, a physical therapist and the coordinator at the hospital's Tisch Performance Center.

Mr. Silverman's initial examination revealed Ms. Barrett had hyper-mobile hips, which can produce an unstable stride. Then Mr. Silverman had Ms. Barrett perform a series of leg squats. He also watched as she stepped slowly off a platform. During each motion her knees bent inward as her legs moved forward.

Next, Mr. Silverman filmed Ms. Barrett running on a treadmill from several angles.

When he slowed down the video and measured the angles of her legs during her stride, the likely source of the pain became obvious—big strides and landing on the inside half of her feet.

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