A clear cut case of Form follows Function.  Leave a deforming force long enough and the body will accommodate. 

When the lateral quadratus plantae (QP) is weak and the flexor digitorum longus pulls unopposed (relying on the QP to properly orient the long flexor pull) for too long the 4th and 5th toes and drift medially and spin inwards toward the midline of the foot (as seen in the photo). Then, as the 4th toe presses down on the fleshy pad of the 5th toe, over time the fleshy pad is pancaked and triangulated. Then, with repeated pressure a corn like hardness becomes of the tip of that triangluted tissue, it resembles a hard callus. A corn is a coalescing of the skin cells into a tighter formation, a reaction to fend off repeated pressure and friction.  Form follows prolonged function.  Shave these things down and they will come back, unless you get to the root source of the problem, which could be all the way up the chain. 

-Dr. Allen

A marathon a day, for over 120 days…..on one leg, battling cancer.

So you think you are tough ? This guy was tough. A marathon a day for over 120 days…..on one leg, battling cancer. 

Rest in Peace Terry. You are not forgotten. You made a mark on my life, thank you for that. Watching you skip on the good leg, giving your prosthetic enough time to swing through mesmerized me, the biomechanics of it all. If i look back, this was the first time I payed attention with great detail to someone’s gait. I was in awe, you moved me, your mission moved me, your heart and spirit moved me. Your life made a difference in mine, so I may help others.Dr. Allen
Today, June 28th, every year here on The Gait Guys, I remember Terry Fox. Every year I post a reminder of perhaps one of the toughest dudes who ever lived. Today , this day, 1981 Terry Fox died. I grew up in Canada. I was barely a teenager when Terry began his plight, The Marathon of Hope. 

His mission, 26 miles a day, every day, until he had crossed the expanse of Canada to raise awareness for cancer. He made it an amazing 120+ days in a row, 3339 miles, one one leg, before his cancer returned. The whole country stood cheering watching him do something no mortal man would attempt, let along with one leg, and cancer. Today we pay a tribute to this true rockstar.
Let this video move you, just in case you think you are having a rough day.


Global body compensations in ACL deficient knees.

ALERT: Ok, this is big.
It is a huge comment on what the brain and reflexive patterns impart on posture and gait when perceived functional instability is present.
This study aimed to investigate the gait modification strategies of trunk over right stance phase in patients with right anterior cruciate ligament deficiency.
* Here is what you need to ABSOLUTLY keep in mind when you read it. The 3D capture it telling you what they are DOING to strategize, not what is WRONG or what needs CORRECTING (our mantra it seems, sorry to keep beating this concept to death). This again hits home what I have been preaching for quite some time, that arm swing (and you can translate that to trunk movements, thorax, head posture, breathing etc) should not be coached or corrected unless you are absolutely sure there are clean symmetrical lower limb biomechanics (yes, you can easily and correctly argue that you can concurrently work on all parts). IF there is something going awry in a lower limb, compensations will occur above, they have to occur. So be absolutely sure you are not making therapeutic interventions above without making therapeutic corrections below. If you are working on a shoulder/upper quarter problem and are not looking for drivers in the lower limbs or in gait, well … . . good luck making lasting effects. Other than breathing, it can be argued well that gait locomotion is our 2nd most engaged motor pattern that we have driven to subconscious levels , and compensations are abound (but not without a cost), so we can dual++ task.
If you want to dive deeper into this, search our blog and look for my articles on Anti-phasic gait. This is essentially what this study was looking at, and confirming, that there is a distortion in the NORMAL opposite phase movements (anti-phasic) of the “shoulder girdle” and “pelvic girdle” when something goes wrong in a lower limb.
– Dr. Allen

Findings from Shi et al when there was a chronic right ACL deficiency:
-trunk rotation with right shoulder trailing over the right stance phase was lower in all five motion patterns
– trunk posterior lean was higher from descending stairs to walking when the knee sagittal plane moment ended
– trunk lateral flexion to the left was higher when ascending stairs at the start of right knee coronal plane moment when descending stairs at the maximal knee coronal plane moment and when descending stairs at the end of the knee coronal plane moment
– trunk rotation with right shoulder forward was higher at the minimal knee transverse plane moment and when the knee transverse plane moment ended
– during walking, trunk rotation with right shoulder trailing was lower at other knee moments during other walking patterns


Looking for the subtle clues will help you. You should have hypotheses and work to prove or disprove them. 

“Remember, this client is displaying these weight bearing differences side to side for a reason, this is their adaptive strategy. It is your job to prove that this is the cause of their pain, their adaptive strategy to get out of pain, or this is now a failed adaptive strategy causing pain, yet still not the root of the problem.”

We used to call this a “windswept” presentation. It is not that it is incorrect, but it is so vague.  

Look at these fippy floppers. Look closely at the dark areas, where foot oils and whatnot have played their changes in the leather upper of the flops. The right f.flop displays more lateral heel loading, rear foot inversion if you will. You can even see that there is less big toe pressure on this right side and even some increased lateral forefoot loading. This client appears to be more supinated clearly. You can even see there is more lightness to the arch leather on the right, again, more supination is suggested.

The left f.flop suggests the opposite. More medial heel pressures and more over the medial forefoot and arch. 

Now this clients f.flops tell a story.  So, this client is being windswept to the right we used to say, appearing to pronate more on the left and supinating more on the right.  Why are they doing this? Is the left leg functionally longer and by pronating they reduce the functional length of the leg (yet, increase internal spin of the limb and the host of naughty things that come with that). Is the right leg shorter, and by supinating they are raising the ankle mortise and arch which helps reduce the length differential ?  MAybe a bit of both, finding common ground for a more symmetrical pelvis ?  Who knows. This is where you need your physical exam, but, now you have some hypotheses to prove or disprove. 

“Remember, this client is displaying these weight bearing differences side to side for a reason, this is their adaptive strategy. It is your job to prove that this is the cause of their pain, their adaptive strategy to get out of pain, or this is now a failed adaptive strategy causing pain, yet still not the root of the problem.”

Is there some right hip pain from the right frontal pelvis drift creating some aberrant loading on the greater trochanter from ITB tension ? Perhaps a painful right hallux big toe, and they are unloading it to avoid pain? Maybe some knee pain or low back pain ? Who knows? Take your history and start putting the pieces together, it is your job. Just don’t screen them and throw corrective exercises at them, you owe it to them to examine them, take their history, watch them walk, teach them about what you see, and then sit down, spread the puzzle pieces out, look for the straight edges and corner pieces, and begin to build their puzzle. 

Clues, they are everywhere, if you look for them.

Dr. Shawn Allen, one of the gait guys

Difference between adult and infant gait compensation.

We highly doubt the infants compensated to the point of “recovering symmetrical gait”. It just isn’t possible seeing as there was frank asymmetry in leg length. However, it is quite possible they accomodated quicker with a more reasonable compensation, that MAY have appeared to have less limp. We did not do the study, but over a beer we might guess that the investigators might agree that our verbiage is closer to accurate. None the less, cool stuff to cogitate. We are very appreciative of this study, there is something to take from this study.

“The stability of a system affects how it will handle a perturbation: The system may compensate for the perturbation or not. This study examined how 14-month-old infants-notoriously unstable walkers-and adults cope with a perturbation to walking. We attached a platform to one of participants’ shoes, forcing them to walk with one elongated leg. At first, the platform shoe caused both age groups to slow down and limp, and caused infants to misstep and fall. But after a few trials, infants altered their gait to compensate for the platform shoe whereas adults did not; infants recovered symmetrical gait whereas adults continued to limp. Apparently, adult walking was stable enough to cope with the perturbation, but infants risked falling if they did not compensate. Compensation depends on the interplay of multiple factors: The availability of a compensatory response, the cost of compensation, and the stability of the system being perturbed.”- From the Cole et all study (reference below)

– thoughts by Shawn Allen


Infant Behav Dev. 2014 Aug;37(3):305-14. doi: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2014.04.006. Epub 2014 May 20.Coping with asymmetry: how infants and adults walk with one elongated leg.Cole WG1, Gill SV2, Vereijken B3, Adolph KE4.


Ankle Plantarflexors as Gait compensators ?

We are always talking about compensations. We have worn out our statement “what you see in someone’s gait is not their problem, ti is their compensation stratetgy(s).”
Here is a study with an interesting thought.
Just remember, try to fix the underlying problems. But, realizing sometimes you cannot, especially in the elderly population, sometimes you have to give a strategy to help them even though it is not the solution you want. And remember also that driving the anterior compartment with appropriate exercises as our “shuffle walk” might stop any loss of ankle dorsiflexion that might be met with the extra calf work that this article seems to suggest.

From the study: “ Of particular importance were the compensatory mechanisms provided by the plantar flexors, which were shown to be able to compensate for many musculoskeletal deficits, including diminished muscle strength in the hip and knee flexors and extensors and increased hip joint stiffness. This importance was further highlighted when a normal walking pattern could not be achieved through compensatory action of other muscle groups when the uniarticular and biarticular plantar flexor strength was decreased as a group. Thus, rehabilitation or preventative exercise programs may consider focusing on increasing or maintaining plantar flexor strength, which appears critical to maintaining normal walking mechanics.”

Gait Posture. 2007 Mar;25(3):360-7. Epub 2006 May 23.
Compensatory strategies during normal walking in response to muscle weakness and increased hip joint stiffness.
Goldberg EJ1, Neptune RR.

Human gait is cyclical. For the most part, when one limb is engaged on the ground (stance phase), the other is in swing phase. Before we continue, you should recall that there is a brief double limb support phase in walking gait, that which is absent in running gait. Also, we wish to remind you of our time hammered principle that when the foot is on the ground the glutes are heavily in charge, and when the foot is in the air, the abdominals are heavily in charge.  

For us to move cleanly and efficiently one would assume that the best way to do that would be to ensure that the lower 2 limbs are capable of doing the exact same things, with the same timing, same skill, same endurance and same strength. This goes for the upper 2 limbs as well, and then of course the synchronizing of the 4 in a cohesive effort. For this clean seamless motor function to occur, one must assume that there would be no injuries that had left a remnant mark on one limb thus encouraging a necessary compensation pattern in that limb (and one that would then have to be negotiated with the opposite limb as well as the contralateral upper or lower limb).  For example, when right ankle rocker (dorsiflexion) is impaired, early heel departure will occur and hip extension will be limited. An alteration in right glute function will most likely follow.  One could theorize that the left step length (the length of measure from right heel strike through to left heel strike) would thus be shortened. This would cause a premature load onto the left limb, and could very well force the left frontal plane to be more engaged than is desirable. This could lead to left core and hip frontal plane weakness and compensation patterns to be generated (ie. right arm abduction. One can see all of these components in the photo above, and in this case here). It could also lead to a pelvic distortion pattern which would further throw off the anti-phasic nature of symmetrical and efficient gait.  To complicate the cyclical scenario, the time usually used to move sagittally will be partially used to move into, and back out of, the left frontal plane. This will necessitate some abbreviations in the left stance phase timely mechanical events. Some biomechanical events will have to be abbreviated or sped through and then the right limb will have to adapt to those changes. These are simple gait problems we have talked about over and over again here on the gait guys blog. (Search “arm swing” on our blog and you will find 45 articles around this topic.) These compensation patterns will include expressed weaknesses in various parts of the human frame as part of the pattern, and merely fixing those weaknesses does not address the right ankle rocker problem. Fixing said weaknesses merely encourages the brain to possibly continue to perpetuate necessary tightnesses in other muscles and engrain the compensations (challenges to mobility and stability) further or more complexly.  It is easy to find something weak, it takes a sharp brain to find the sometimes silent sparking event. Are you able to find the problem in this never ending loop of compensations and find a way to unwrinkle the system one logical piece at a time, or will you just chose to strengthen the wrinkled system and hope that the new strength on top of the compensations is adequate for you our your client ? One should not be forever sentenced to daily or weekly rehabilitative sessions/ homework to negate and alleviate symptoms, this is a far more durable machine than that. Fix the problem.

Now, lets add another wrinkle to the system.  What if there were problems before any injuries ?  Meaning, what if there were problems during the timely maturation and suppression of the primitive reflexes ? Or problems in the timely appearance or maturation of postural reflexes? A problem in these areas may very well result in a central or peripheral nervous system malfunction and a representation of such in one’s movement and gait.  That is a larger discussion for another time.

There is a reason that in our practices we often assess and treat contralateral upper and lower limbs as well as to address remnants from old injuries whether they are symptomatic or not. This is a really tough puzzle and game you are playing. For example, when there is insufficient hip internal rotation unilaterally you can regain some of the loss through increased foot pronation unilaterally, but at a consequence to both the local and global pictures.  Remember, most of the time you are trying to walk in a straight line from A to B and if the parts are not symmetrical you have many options to compensate. It is not as simple as telling your athlete to swing one arm more, or to stop pulling it across their body; they need to do those things, it is called a “compensation”. It is often not as simple as finding an impaired Rolling Pattern and driving it back to symmetry, in doing so, you may have just added strength and skill to a compensation.  Merely addressing things locally can be a crime.  If you are seeing an arm swing change, you would be foolish not to look at the opposite lower limb and foot at the very least, and of course assess spinal rotation, lateral flexion and hinging as well as core mobility and stability.  For your neuro nerds, remember the receptors from the central spine and core fire into the midline vermis of the cerebellum (one of the oldest parts of our brain, called the paleo cerebellum); and these pathways, along with other cerebellar efferents, fire our axial extensor muscles that keep us upright in the gravitational plane and provide balance or homeostasis.  So, those need assessed and addressed as well.  

Or, if this is too much thinking for you, … you can just train harder and get stronger . .  . in all your compensation patterns, after all, it is easier than figuring out why and how that right ankle started the whole mess, if in fact that is even the first piece of the puzzle.

Welcome to the matrix.

shawn and ivo, the gait guys