Gait Mistakes You're Making That Impact More Than Your Feet

Gait Mistakes You're Making That Impact More Than Your Feet

Every step you take involves muscle coordination, eye tracking, hearing, balance, and rhythm. Your gait is your unique stride pattern, and everyone’s is slightly different. Although there’s room for variety, if your gait falls too far outside the norm, it can lead to problems throughout your body.

In many cases, pain in the feet and ankleskneeships, and back begins with a gait problem. Dr. Bryan King and our specialists at Tuscaloosa Orthopedic & Joint Institute in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, diagnose gait problems and help you identify bad walking habits that may be affecting the rest of your body. 

Could I have a gait disorder?

Sometimes, gait problems stem from other health conditions. For example, Parkinson’s disease may lead to a propulsive gait, which causes you to stoop when you walk. Spastic cerebral palsy may cause you to walk with a scissor step. 

Arthritis, stroke, and neurological conditions can also change the way you walk, as can foot problems, such as corns, bunions, hammertoe, and plantar fasciitis. 

These conditions can all lead to a gait disorder, but they’re not the only culprits. Some gait problems are simply a matter of bad walking habits.

Do you walk with these bad gait habits?

To help you identify potential gait problems, our team pulled together this list of the most common habits we see.

Wearing the wrong shoes

Every stride has three phases: the heel strike, the weight shift, and the balance phase. If you wear high heels, the initial strike isn’t with your heel — you actually land flat-footed. High heels also eliminate the weight shift or rocking phase, and they put excess pressure on your heel during the balance phase, when the opposite foot swings through. 

Stilettos, flats, and other unsupportive footwear increase the load on your ankles and knee joints, causing your calves to tighten. As your body tries to stabilize itself, you may experience pain in your legs and back. 

Carrying your bag on one shoulder

Whether you carry a purse, sling a backpack over your shoulder, or hoist a laptop case everywhere you go, how much it weighs and how you carry it can alter your gait. And if you habitually carry your bag on the same shoulder, it can lead to gait problems over time.

Studies show that heavy cargo pulls your body out of alignment and changes the way you shift your weight when you walk, including differences in stride length, gait angle, and timing.

Taking long strides

Power walking is great exercise — unless your strides are too long. There’s a fine line between a long stride and an overstride, which causes the knee on your lead leg to lock. When this happens, your knees can’t absorb shock like they should, and you end up in pain. 

To avoid this, take faster steps, not longer ones, and make sure your knee stays slightly flexed with each stride.

Hunching forward

If you have poor posture when you stand and sit, you probably have poor walking posture too. Bending at the head and shoulders puts pressure on your neck and spine. To avoid pain, hold your head high and look forward, not down.

Slapping the ground

If you hear a smacking sound every time your foot hits the pavement, chances are you have a gait problem. 

Focus on the distinct phases of your gait, and make sure your heel strikes first, then roll through the rocking phase and shift your weight forward. Finally, push off and transfer balance with your other foot.

Pronating and supinating

Ideally, your weight is evenly distributed on the bottom of your feet when you walk. But a bad gait can put more pressure on the outside (supination) or the inside (pronation). Each step causes your ankle to either slump inward or outward, which has a ripple effect of pain up through your legs. 

Check the soles of your favorite shoes for excess wear to find out whether you pronate or supinate. 

Walk this way

Our team evaluates your gait and identifies problems that may be leading to pain and other symptoms throughout your body. 

Dr. King teaches you how to adjust your gait to prevent pain in your lower and upper body. We may recommend custom orthotics to give you added support and shock absorption, or we may suggest special exercises to help you learn a new way of walking.

If your poor gait has caused tissue damage in your ankles, knees, hips, or back, we can address that too, with anti-inflammatory medicine, physical therapy, steroid injections, or surgical intervention if necessary. 

If you suspect your gait is a problem, schedule an appointment with Dr. King by calling our friendly staff today. 

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