RUNNING IS MUCH more than just putting one foot in front of the other. There are whole systems of the body working together with each footfall—so when something is off, it doesn’t take much to throw yourself totally out of whack.

I know just how that happens, unfortunately. I ran a marathon last year, and after all of the training mileage and the big race was finished, I wound up with a painful hamstring problem that followed me for months afterward.

I spent hours on dedicated physical therapy and took some time off the road. Now, the injury seems to be finally healed enough for me to resume a normal running regimen. Before I get too far down that path, however, I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t just setting myself up for an express trip back to the PT’s office. I went straight there instead, checking in with Dan Giordano, DPT, C.S.C.S. at Bespoke Treatments in NYC to see what high tech solutions are available to help me run stronger.

Giordano had just the tool: Runeasi, which purports to help PTs and coaches identify the weak points in your stride that can lead to inefficiencies—and later down the line, injuries.

What Is the Runeasi 3D Gait Analysis

The high-tech solution comes in the form of a sensor attached to a strap that looks and feels just like the running belts long distance athletes wear to carry stuff along with them on the road.

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Using the tool is a two-pronged process—after collecting data on a run, the software gets to work, analyzing the movement information to determine what asymmetries and compensations exist in your gait (the cycle your leg travels through when you run).

Gait analysis itself isn’t new. You might have even seen specialty running retailers that offer the service in a blocked-off area of their stores. The really high-level testing requires the subject to run on a treadmill so the PT or coach can assess video footage and data, then provide their own feedback and recommendations. Runeasi uses software to do that, trained on data from over 10 years of research collected by the Human Movement and Artificial Intelligence Research Groups of KU Leuven in Belgium and Stellenbosch University in South Africa. Runeasi’s software suite was also validated using data from the industry gold standard Vicon motion capture system, according to Runeasi CEO and cofounder Kurt Schütte, PhD.

Runeasi is also different from other gait analysis because it measures the ground impact with each stride and the body’s response, according to Giordano. The tech uses three parameters to do this: dynamic stability, symmetry, and impact loading.

graphical user interface, application

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Dynamic Stability

This measure is based on the side-to-side wobble of the hips (essentially, how well you can stabilize the hips while running). “A poor score can indicate poor hip control, which increases the work of your stabilizing muscles,” says Giordano. “This could reduce your running efficiency (how much energy you consume with each step) and increase your risk of overuse injury.”

Symmetry

This is the difference between the right and left sides of your body and how they work together. This also impacts running efficiency, and poor scores might signal likelihood of injury, according to Giordano.

Impact Loading

This refers to how much you load your body while running. “This is strongly determined by the capacity of the lower limb muscles and how they work together to absorb the impact of running,” says Giordano.

The Runeasi sensor also gauges running cadence (strides per minute) and ground contact time (time spent with the foot on the ground).

The biomechanical sensor in Runeasi doesn’t depend on treadmill sessions. You can strap it around your midsection (with the sensor on your sacrum, or lower back) and run anywhere. That position is important, according to Runeasi’s Timothée Vander Linden. Similar tools often attach to the shoe or lower body, but Runeasi wanted a more full-bodied approach. “If you go too low, if you put sensors on the shoes or on a tibia, you’re not as accurate as you would like to be upwards,” he says. “You also want to know what’s happening up the kinetic chain, and how your lower limbs are coping with [ground impact], or your lower back or even your core.”

Schütte says this allows the tech to be more individualized and accurate. “You can pick up compensations patterns at the hips, but if you had it with the feet or your shins, you would you lose a lot of information about actually how is your body responding to the running—the speed, the incline, the shoes you’re running in, that type of thing.”

The Runeasi Test and Results

I was ready to put this system to the test. Set up took just a few taps on Giordano’s tablet, and we headed out to NYC’s Central Park with nothing but a tablet and my running gear to get an initial reading. The belt didn’t bother me in the least once I clipped it around my waist, and I took off down the Central Park loop for a brisk five-minute jog. There’s no special protocol to follow to collect the data, so I ran just like any other day. My hamstring didn’t bother me at all, which made me curious about exactly what I might learn once the Runeasi software got to work.

I finished, and Giordano got the program up and running. The system took just a few minutes to churn through the data and return a personalized report, complete with scores and feedback for each of the three parameters and a larger, overarching recommendation for next steps to improve my runs.

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Overall, Giordano told me that I ran well. The overall scores were good—all in the “green,” which means I’m in fairly good shape form-wise. But that doesn’t mean that there weren’t areas for improvement, and there was one major takeaway from the test: Runeasi knew that I had a left leg injury, and what imbalances that existed in my stride were to compensate. That seemed remarkable to me—even after months of PT and feeling balanced, this little sensor knew my injury history immediately.

Better still, the system provided Giordano with a set of exercises I could do to help combat that compensation and build strength so that my body can do a better job handling those ground impact forces. We walked through those movements right away—and I’m putting them into my routine so that I can hit the ground running even stronger than before.

The Leg-Strengthening Exercises

Bodyweight Squat Drop

3 sets of 10 to 15 reps

How to Do It:

  • Start standing with your feet just further than shoulder-width apart.
  • Lift your arms over your head and rise up onto your toes. Hold this position for a beat.
  • Explode downwards, landing on your heels and descending down into a squat. Shoot your arms behind yourself to emphasize the movement.

Box Step Off

3 sets of 10 to 15 reps

How to Do It:

  • Start standing with both feet on a box, standing close to the edge or with your toes just off the edge.
  • Step one foot off the box and out in front of you, keeping your balance on your other planted leg.
  • Lean forward with your torso, allowing your other foot to come off the box so that you land softly with both feet planted on the floor, bending your knees to descend into a squat position to absorb the shock. You can raise your hands to help coordinate this movement.
  • Stand back up.

Rear Foot-Elevated Split Squat Jump

3 sets of 10 to 15 reps

How to Do It:

  • Start with one foot elevated behind you on a bench or platform. Get into a position with your front knee at a 90 degree angle. You should be aiming to have your shin near a vertical shin in relation to the floor. Your weight should be resting in the middle of your foot, rather than in your toes or heels.
  • Press off the floor with your front foot and jump up off the floor, driving your knee up and cycling your arms like a runner. Keep your rear foot in position on the bench.
  • Land softly, with your weight in the middle of the foot to absorb the shock.
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Brett Williams, a fitness editor at Men’s Health, is a NASM-CPT certified trainer and former pro football player and tech reporter who splits his workout time between strength and conditioning training, martial arts, and running. You can find his work elsewhere at Mashable, Thrillist, and other outlets.