Biomechanics is the science of diagnosing, and treating, abnormalities and pathologies of the foot and lower leg. We all have ways of walking which work, but they’re not all the same. Some of us walk in ways which put more stress on certain structures, ligament, bones, tendons and muscles. Like a car in which the steering tracks badly, these patterns are usually undetectable until the uneven wear causes parts to wear out and stop working. Orthoses are devices which correct these abnormal patterns. Like glasses correct eye problems, orthoses make subtle (or not so subtle) changes to the way your feet work. By bringing the “tracking” back in line, the wear and tear is distributed more evenly across all the structures which make your legs and feet work. They’re not magic. If you have an injury, they cannot instantly cause damaged tissues to knit together. What they can do in this situation is create an environment in which the injury can heal. If you suffer pain caused purely by walking badly however, they can correct that almost instantly. Where a standard biomechanical assessment struggles is in detecting problems before they arise. To continue the analogy, anyone can detect abnormal wear in tyres, but how do you detect the underlying problem BEFORE it causes damage? The answer is, you can’t. At least not by simply looking at it. With a car you place it on a special machine with sensitive instruments which measure how the steering is balanced to detect the problems before they cause damage. In biomechanics, we do exactly the same. There is a limit to what you can see. One can see the position of a foot or leg, but not the forces acting inside it. For that, you need a special set of computerised equipment. It detects not just where your foot is during gait, but where all the forces are acting within it by measuring hundreds of pressure readings where you tread. This data is then processed by a computer to derive which structures are likely to suffer and an appropriately trained Podiatrist can then issue a prescription to protect these structures. Generally, in healthcare, we wait for something to go wrong before we try to fix it, and often by then its too late! Gait scanning technology allows us to treat problems before they develop and prevention is always better than cure. So if you think you are suffering the early stages of foot or leg pathology, or if you have any significant risk factors (such as a strong family history of knee or hip arthritis) you should seriously consider booking yourself in for a Gait Scan evaluation before it progresses to the stage where its difficult or impossible to treat. Correcting a problem before it develops might be the best decision you make this year. Like your heart and your teeth, its always better to keep your joints and legs healthy than it is to wait until they fail.