Since The Run Lab® opened, I’ve been itching to get a 3D running gait analysis. With my current injury proving to be quite stubborn, it was time to have an in-depth physiotherapy assessment.
The Run Lab® was created by Lou Nicholettos at Cornwall Physio and is a Physiotherapist-lead 3D gait analysis service, combining multiple bits of testing kit in a purpose built ‘lab’ for runners. Since opening her own practice in 2010, Lou rapidly carved herself out as the best in the business, with a specialist interest in running injuries.
My visit to The Run Lab was part of my recent recovery plan for plantar fasciitis. I’ve problems with my back and sciatica, and don’t have the best core strength, so issues pop up every so often. However these last few years it’s been one thing after another, all initiated after hurting my back falling in the snow. (Remember the The Beast from the East?)
About The Run Lab
The Run Lab sessions can be tailored to any runner, looking to diagnose and overcome injury, or to improve performance and prevent future injuries. Being able to run more efficiently and injury free is the ultimate goal for most runners – especially someone like me who’s been dogged by problems for the last few years.
In fact, I’ve previously written a post on excellent training tips to help you run faster. If you’re already in the swing of running and have established a good baseline, it’s definitely worth a read.
The Run Lab is so clever. Lou has various bits of kit that measure everything from foot and ankle movement, to strength, power, and running technique. For my session we focused on the Motion Metrix, which uses a 3D camera system to track your joint movements as you run. It offers a full breakdown of statistics and data revealing each individual’s biomechanics.
The amount of information offered is incredible, especially when you only need to run for a few minutes for the gait analysis to provide the results. As a Physiotherapist Lou is able to interpret exactly what these results mean for you and and your body, and how best to fix them.
What Happens At The Run Lab?
Lou talked me through what to expect from my session at the Run Lab. After being weighed and measured, I ran on the treadmill for a few minutes.
I thought I’d be self conscious of my running form during the assessment and run using my best posture. Thankfully, I put that out of my mind and relaxed into it.
While running, the cameras recorded my movement and analysed all aspects of my running and posture.
Once I was done, Lou talked over the detailed results, and it was fascinating (but not surprising, given my injury history). She was able to relate the test results to issues we’ve found in my previous Physio treatments.
The 3D Gait Analysis Results From The Run Lab
The Motion Metrix feedback offers several screens of results. These fall into 3 categories: Running Performance, Gait Characteristics and Joint Loading. My running data was compared to that collected from elite runners. Looking at the results, it’s quite clear, I’m no elite😅.
The good news is, my overall running mechanics are good but there’s room for improvement in many areas.
Sadly, my running performance isn’t that great. I don’t know if this because I’m overcoming an injury or is perhaps associated with my injuries happening in the first place. Either way, with a running economy of D, I’m clearly not very efficient at all.
Running Economy is associated with elasticity, and yes, mine is way below par at 18.2%. While I just about fall within the average range, it could be a lot better. I’d like it to improve as well.
The Elastic Energy measure is interesting. It reflects how effectively I’m using the springiness of my tendons and Lou describes elasticity as the key ingredient for running fast AND economically. My poor elasticity will be one of the key things holding me back from economical running.
This, in turn is related to the Running Performance results, specifically the stride parameters. Here, Lou explained that I have a slow cadence (155 at the time of the analysis). This means my legs remain in contact with the ground for too long when running, impacting my elasticity and efficiency.
Motion Metrix categorises runners into one of six profiles. As you can imagine, some are more efficient and less prone to injury than others.
I came up as an Easy Strider which isn’t great. The running profiles to aim for are the Eco-Sprinter, highlighted as the best overall, or the Quick Stepper, the type of runner who’s least likely to be injured.
In contrast, an Easy Strider runner is someone who’d benefit from improving their running technique and strength. My main running characteristics are over-striding (landing too far ahead of my body) and being in a seated posture. Lou explained that when my foot lands, my leg bends too much (that’ll be that pesky elasticity). I see from my results that I’ve a 75% injury occurrence rate (tell me about it) with hamstrings and tendons issues being the most likely.
Making Minor Adjustments
Part of my Run Lab session involved making a few easy adjustments and having a second analysis to compare results.
Lou recommended increasing my cadence to 166, which was ideal for my height and running pace. At first it felt like I was sprinting and I had to settle into it.
The results speak for themselves. Simply increasing my cadence placed me into the Eco Sprinter profile, elevated my elasticity by 20%, nudging me into the excellent range. I also yielded a B for running efficiency.
I was honestly fascinated and motivated by these improvements. It was hard to believe that a relatively minor adjustment had such a knock on effect in different areas.
What To Do After Your 3D Gait Analysis?
Obviously I’m continuing with my running, now with a metronome beeping at 166. That’s something to get used to, and it really emphasises how much my running has changed over the last few years.
When I run with a quicker cadence, I can feel how different my posture is. I’m more upright and lengthened and it feels more efficient.
Lou has given me some exercises to do, to continue strengthening my hips and aiding flexibility. The work doesn’t end after your run lab consultation. I’ll be back in June for a follow up. Here we’ll see if I’ve managed to make improvements and think about the next steps.
If you’d like more information, why not check out The Run Lab online?
Apparently, I’ve got the potential to be a good runner. My results, and the adjustments made in the run lab, tell us that correcting my cadence is the simplest thing. However, lots of hip strengthening needs to happen too. This will help my elasticity so when I land on my foot, my hip won’t drop so much.
It was amazing in the short test, that I went from an Easy Strider to an Eco-Sprinter on the Motion Metrix, and my running economy when from D to B. Apparently an Eco-Sprinter is least likely to become injured. Music to my ears!
What’s also good is that it reflects much of the advice and issues I’ve had before.
I’d totally recommend a 3D gait analysis at The Run Lab, regardless of your current running ability. It’s definitely worth it if you want to run and move better, become a more efficient runner, and prevent injury.