By Erin Palinski-Wade

The term gait is defined as a person’s manner of walking. An abnormal gait, which can occur due to disease such as arthritis or even from previous injuries such as fractures, can impact your overall ability to walk as well as increase your risk of future injury.

To see how important a correct gait is, give this activity a try: Stand barefoot with your feet a bit wider than hip width apart and roll your feet inward slightly so that you’re only using your big toe. Now, take a few steps. Do any muscles seem to be working harder than others? Do you feel some muscles working that you don’t typically feel when you walk?

If you walked like this for a distance, you would most likely feel a pull in the inside of your knee. And repeated walking this way can cause your knee to become out of alignment, increasing injury risk.

The same issue can happen if you place too much weight on your smallest toe when walking or walk mostly on your heels rather than the ball of the foot. Anytime you walk off balance or don’t utilize your entire foot, you cause other muscles in your lower body to be overused, and this can lead to pain and injury, which over time can keep you from walking. That’s why a correct gait is so important.