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What is gait and does it matter?

Gait is a technical term. But different professionals mean different things when using it. If there is something common to all of them, it is that gait is observed locomotion. In this post, it means what happens in the foot and ankle, between foot strike and toe-off. When you land, which is equal to hitting the ground, the ground hits back. Gait is how your foot-and-ankle system rolls with that punch.

For about a generation, technical running shoe manufacturers and retailers have proposed that consumers match their gait to the shoes built for it.

Which category are you in?


Manufacturers have found it useful to put all 7 billion humans into three categories: neutral, pronating, and supinating.

At some point after the first contact with the ground, the shod foot will flatten out. (Or if not that, its heel will come to its closest point to the ground.) At that instant, the calcaneus, talus, and tibia will assume their positions.

Imagine viewing those bones from the rear and imagine that there’s a dot in the center of the calcaneus and talus and also the distal portion of the tibia. Now draw a curve through the dots.

If the curve is close to being a vertical line, you would be called neutral. If the curve bends to the left, you’re a pronator. If the curve bends to the right, you’re a supinator.

The talus is the bone most responsible for defining the gait. If it moves medial to the other two bones, that’s pronation. If it moves lateral to the other two bones, that’s supination. If it falls in line with the other two bones, that’s neutral.

Does gait matter?


Just about all of our technical running shoes are designated as neutral, support, or stability. But the folks at Run Shoe Store don’t think that matching gait to the corresponding shoe is a good idea. We’ve seen too many pronators, for example, have wonderful experiences in neutral shoes. So we encourage our customers to buy the most comfortable shoe. Gait is more helpful to scientists and physicians than it is for retailers and consumers.

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Phil Clark