W
hat part of the foot touches the ground first? Which part is the one that leaves the ground last? Do we evenly use the inside and outside of the foot?  Is it important to know the answers to these questions?

 

Let’s start from the last question. Yes, it is very important to be aware of the walk cycle because it tells us a lot about possible problems or compensations going on in your feet and your body.

The human foot evolved to act as a platform to support the entire weight of the body, rather than acting as a grasping structure, as it did in early hominids.

When we walk, we can clearly see how the foot and its arches are able to adapt. The parts of the foot adapt to changes in the load of the weight, react to the ground underneath and play the role of elastic shock absorber.
 

f07-01-9780443103780gait-analysis-explanation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Image from http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/gait+cycle and http://www.footsolutions.ie/blog/gait-analysis/)

 

The walk can be broken down into 3 main phases:

1- Footprint Phase: The body shifts its weight from posterior, to vertical, and to anterior, compared to the foot on the floor. This is the phase of single-leg support. Here the weight of the body is bearing on the vault of the foot, making it flatter. The muscles at the bottom of the foot react to this force and contract. This is the phase where we eccentrically load and store the energy.

– Tip: To improve this phase, a major component of the training is working on eccentric load and exercising on a single leg.

 

2 – Strike or Deceleration Phase: The ankle is slightly flexed (dorsiflexion), and the lateral portion of the heel strikes the ground. Soon after, the rest of the foot makes contact with the ground. In this first phase, we bring the energy in. From this first contact, a series of muscle actions start in the body. Like a spiral, from the intrinsic muscles in the foot, all the way up to the gluteal complex, the muscles bring in the energy. An inefficient strike pattern has major consequences when it comes to storing and then releasing the energy.

– Tip: Walking backwards on the treadmill actually improves the deceleration phase of the walk.

 

3- The Push-off Phase: The weight and the leg of support are now anterior compared to the foot, the muscles in the posterior leg are now contracting and moving the ankle in extension (plantar flexion), and the forefoot is spreading on the ground. The propulsive force started by the calf muscles continues, thanks to the contraction of the toe extensors. The big toe takes care of the very last phase of propulsion as the walk will replicate its cycle on the opposite leg. In this acceleration phase, you release the energy.

– Tip: Make sure the big toe joint has full range of motion.

 

If we analyze what happens at the bottom of the foot in the walk action on bare feet, we can see that we transfer the weight from the heel, along the outside of the foot, across the ball of the foot, and finally through the big toe.

 

At least, this is what happens in a perfect scenario, but as we know, most of us “adapt” our walk according to the type of foot we have, according to possible pathologies and according to what is going on with the rest of the body. What you can do, now that you know how the walk is supposed to be, is to make sure your stride is not too far off from what we’ve just analyzed.

 

Stay tuned because soon we’ll compare the barefoot gait analysis that we described in this blog to the walk in high heels. I bet we’ll find a few differences….