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  • Writer's pictureGiulia Pline

Healthy gait (walking) & human movement requires two important things

Healthy gait (aka how we ambulate or walk) requires two important things:

  1. The ability to accept weight

  2. The ability to move weight forward

Let's take a step back and talk for a moment about the gait cycle.

When talking about the gait cycle, we can look at an entire stride length and also the length of a single footstep and all the shapes the foot and body take and make through these respective time periods.

Stride length refers to how the foot and body travel from heel strike to heel strike aka when the heel hits the ground to that same foot pushing off and moving through again to heel strike. Here is an example of stride length following the blue colored leg:

A single footstep is the period of time from heel strike to toe off which last approximately 0.6-0.8 seconds. Here is an example of a footstep following the blue colored leg:

During the gait cycle, the foot changes shape with the body to help absorb shock, distribute load, and move us through space efficiently.

The ability to accept our weight is known as foot pronation.

Pronation is essential and happens only once in a single footstep (the "loading response" phase pictured above). Pronation is when the foot lengthens, flattens, widens and becomes a mobile adapter to shock absorb and receive our body weight. This "unlocked" position of the foot is not only essential for absorbing ground reaction forces, but for gathering information about the ground underneath us. Pronation also prepares the foot become a rigid lever, for the arches to lift and contract and push us forward into space.

The ability to move weight forward is known as foot supination.

Supination happens multiple times in a single footstep (the heel strike, mid stance, and terminal stance phases in the picture above) and is when the arches of the foot contract and lift, turning the foot into a rigid lever from which we can push off and propel forward into space.

We need the foot and body to be able to change shapes during the gait cycle in order to be adaptable, responsive, and avoid getting stuck in a certain position or moment in time. When we lose the ability to either accept weight or push weight forward efficiently, a.k.a. the ability to pronate and supinate efficiently, we can end up compensating and certain patterns can arise in our gait, like walking with the feet turned out, or swinging the leg around to step forward, or excessively shifting & dropping the the hips from side to side.

This is a hefty and important topic but let's start here with two simple exercises!

Here is one of my favorite exercises to practice foot pronation:

Here is one of my favorite exercises to practice foot supination:

The wedges used in the videos above can be substituted by folded towels or socks.

The wedges are made by Gary Ward, creator of Anatomy in Motion. I have learned so much from Gary's expertise and teachings. My body and my clients' bodies have benefited greatly from this work. He created these wedges and you can purchase them here:

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