Within medical circles, the activity of walking is increasingly understood as a dynamic portrait of the functioning of the human body as a whole. Sometimes, the first signs of more serious health issues will not show up on a scan or x-ray, but they will show up in your walk. In fact, from a health perspective, walking is so informative that some now view it as a sixth vital sign – as important as body temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation. This makes the early detection of dysfunctional deviations in your walk, or gait abnormalities, critical not only for comfortable walking but also for your overall health.
Mobility Disorders That Could Signal Greater Health Issues
The Problem of Pain
Chronic pain in the feet, ankles, knees, hips, and neck is extremely common, especially for those who live a more sedentary lifestyle. It’s no secret that a low frequency of physical activity negatively affects overall health. However, there’s a lesser-known fact about chronic pain: it is often related to poor walking mechanics.
Since our body is interconnected, if one part is ailing, misaligned, or moving poorly when we walk, this can create a ripple effect through the rest of our body. For example, walking asymmetrically such as adjusting for arthritic hips by not allowing them to swing side to side as you step, may lead to pain or injury such as a sprained knee or ankle, herniated disc, or even a fall due to balance issues. Gait malformations like this only become more likely and more important to address as we age. While gait abnormalities might first manifest as a little dysfunction in your gait, they can then lead to pain, and ultimately to joint replacements, corrective surgeries, or extensive physical therapy over time.
Dealing With Knee Pain
Knee pain is one of the most common types of pain, and it can be connected to walking habits. Imbalances in your gait, like pronation, supination, or poor posture, can lead to poor knee and ankle function. Correcting minor mobility disorders, like addressing walking asymmetry or improving your posture, can have a direct impact on generalized knee pain.
According to Baliston’s Director of Clinical Application and Movement Science, Chris Proulx the most sensitive region of the knee is the infrapatellar fat pad. Due to its heightened sensitivity, the infrapatellar fat pad is also the area most susceptible to pain. For people who experience chronic knee pain, this part of the knee is often overloaded due to friction caused by poor walking rotational mechanics.
For example, when you walk, your ankle naturally rotates and swings, giving your body the momentum it needs to push itself forward. However, when your gait is asymmetrical or out of alignment, this natural ankle swing does not proceed correctly, leading to friction in the knee, inflammation of the fat pad, and subsequently, knee pain. Improved walking mechanics can address this type of pain.
Overpronation is a Red Flag
One of the most common mobility disorders is overpronation, or favoring the inside of your foot as you walk. Overpronation has been shown to put unnecessary strain on the subtalar joint that connects the lower leg to the heel bone. This stress can lead to Achilles tendinitis and an increased likelihood of ankle sprains and ACL tears, especially in athletes. Because overpronation is so common, some of its associated ailments are, too. About one in ten people will experience plantar fasciitis, another injury that can result from habitual or hereditary overpronation.
Causes of Neck Pain
Evidence suggests that gait malformations don’t just affect the regions closest to the feet, like the ankles and knees. Neck pain has also been linked to poor walking mechanics. When we’re walking properly, swinging our arms and legs opposite one another, there should be some rotation through our spines. When this spinal rotation is absent, neck pain can be a direct result. If you notice less stability and a weak sense of proprioception around your neck when walking, you may need to address this common postural issue.
Parkinson’s Disease and Walking Health
While the connection between Parkinson’s disease and walking wellness is still hazy, research has shown that certain gait analysis technology in tech-augmented shoes such as Baliston’s may help detect the existence of Parkinson’s through abnormalities found in the gait-analysis. Parkinson’s, which is a central nervous system disorder, can affect mobility in a variety of ways, including shaking, stiffness, and issues with balance and coordination, all of which impact walking.
Gait disorders can also signal other serious illnesses like strokes, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis (MS), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or peripheral neuropathy. Daily analytics (LINK) personalized for users’ unique walking habits will not cure diseases like these, but could prove essential in predicting them to help slow progression, and are worthy signals to contact a specialist.
The Diagnostic Horizon of Smart Shoe Technologies
Fitness is a journey, and access to data opens more avenues toward wellness. Luckily, advancements in biomechanics and revolutionary footwear services like Baliston’s have made it possible to detect gait abnormalities before larger health issues develop, and facilitate a dynamic walking technique that engages the proper parts of your body. This type of AI-enabled technology has the capability to not only analyze biometrics but also provide personalized insights and recommendations that may help identify and treat other pathologies early.
Mobility disorders are incredibly common, but advancements in data analysis mean that these disorders don’t have to affect your health negatively over time. Baliston’s tech-augmented footwear helps drive physical health and enhance the wearer’s quality of life by catching poor walking mechanics before they become health problems.