Sports shops are putting runners at increased risk of injury by giving “unqualified advice” when selling trainers and insoles, a knee surgeon has claimed.
Amir Qureshi said retailers may unwittingly be putting customers at risk by claiming to provide detailed in-store assessments about limb movement — known as gait analysis.
Many sports shops now offer video gait analysis, which involves a customer running on a treadmill for a few minutes while a recording is made of their feet.
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The findings from a gait analysis, such as whether someone overpronates (rolls their feet inward too much), is then used to advise people about the best footwear for the way they stand, walk or run and whether or not they require standard or custom-moulded foot orthotics such as insoles or support straps.
Mr Qureshi, a consultant knee and limb reconstruction surgeon at University Hospital Southampton, is calling for retailers to correctly label the services they provide, and to advise customers to get a professional opinion before adopting an orthotic if they do wish to mark assessments as “gait analysis”.
He said a well-intentioned orthotic can “cause harm either in the foot or ankle or the joints above including the knee, and result in the need for treatment — potentially undoing the hard work put in to get fit”
The surgeon said an accurate gait assessment involves “attaching markers to various points of the body and asking the patient to walk in a lab with special cameras tracking every movement of each part of the limbs, pelvis, hips, knees, ankles and feet”.
“A key part is the use of a specialised plate on the floor which assesses the force going through the body and all of this information is collated and scrutinised by highly-trained people with different skills including doctors, podiatrists and physiotherapists.
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“However, many shoe shops and sports stores offer investigations, which are increasingly labelled as gait analysis, that would not be a correct description of the information gathered.
“The methods used, such as video recordings, are not validated and no report generated for the customer to take to their GP or healthcare professional such as a podiatrist or physiotherapist.”
Mr Qureshi said professional gait analysis carried out at specialist centres can take up to four hours.
He added: “For those who already have insoles or other orthotics which feel uncomfortable or if a new pain occurs in any joint, they should stop using it or risk further damage.”
Additional reporting by Press Association.