Gait analysis is the study of movement patterns while people and animals walk and run. There are many applications for gait analysis, including clinical diagnosis, anatomical study, and analysis of a patient for the purpose of fitting orthopedic devices. Gait labs for detailed analysis sessions are available, and it is also possible to conduct an informal analysis in any setting by having the subject walk and move while being closely observed by a gait expert.
Movement patterns while in motion can reveal important information about the subject of a gait analysis. Gait in people and many animals is well understood, and deviations from normal patterns can be indicative of nerve damage, injuries, anatomical abnormalities, and other problems. In a gait lab, cameras are trained on the subject and the subject may walk over force platforms that provide feedback as the subject moves through the lab. This information can be used to conduct a very detailed analysis. In a more casual setting, people can look for signs like limping, turned out ankles, and other gait irregularities.
In humans, gait analysis is often used for things like fitting athletic shoes and diagnosing people with medical issues related to gait. Patients with conditions like cerebral palsy and injuries that impact gait may be subjected to gait analysis to collect information about the specific nature of the condition. This information can be used to develop a physical therapy program, fit the patient with braces and specialized shoes, and monitor the patient through treatment to see how well the patient responds to the treatment.
In animals, gait analysis is used for similar purposes. Horses are among the most studied animals. This type of study may be used to monitor horses after injuries, to develop and test specialized corrective horseshoes, and to determine if a horse is sound and suitable for a given application. Racehorses, for example, need to be in excellent physical condition with no gait abnormalities, as gait problems can cause injuries or poor performance on the track. Likewise, horses used for physically demanding sports like jumping need very sound, strong limbs.
Experts in gait analysis charge varying fees for their services. Some medical professionals like equine vets and orthopedic doctors offer this service as part of a diagnosis and treatment plan, and will provide access to a gait lab for part of the patient fee. In cases where people are referred elsewhere for gait analysis, fees can be higher, reflecting the specialty nature of the service.