Can Movement Assessment Help Runners Avoid Injury?

DorsaVi ViMove2

We’re always searching for the thing that makes us a better runner and helps us to avoid running injuries. Could movement assessment using wearable sensor technology give us the answers? Pip Haylett finds out.

DorsaVi ViMove2 – Movement insights and learning in the natural environment

Having been offered the chance to try out some DorsaVi wearable sensor technology, I expected to be going to a treadmill in a basement room somewhere, to be strapped up and have my gait analysed. But as the appointment came through, it turned out I was to meet Shane Benzie at a local park. So now I thought I’d be running around the park covered in reflective dots, being chased by a man with a camera and I was not overly sure how useful it would be. Not surprisingly, I was wrong on both counts.

The Coach

Shane Benzie is a busy man, with one of the best jobs there is. He travels around the world, either working with runners on improving their movement and efficiency or studying and learning from the best movers on the planet. From the heat of Kenya to the cold of the Arctic, his CV is impressive, having worked with some 3,000 runners around the world on improving their running form.

I caught him in between trips, just back from working with triathletes in the Canary Islands, and just before he headed out to Morocco, and then to Romania, coaching Team GB at the 24-hour world championships.

The technology

After an initial welcome, Shane introduced me to the DorsaVi technology. DorsaVi are specialists in wearable movement sensors, in particular the ViMove2 that we’d be using on me. The results come via algorithms and software that work to analyse the way we move and create an easy to interpret set of reports. These are used by coaches, athletes, chiropractors and physiotherapists – anyone involved with movement analysis – to improve efficiency, prevent injury and aid rehabilitation across a wide range of sports.

The ViMove2 system we were using is focused on providing insight into the art of running. For this, we had two sensors, slightly smaller than a match box, with one attached (with double sided tape) to each shin. Once stuck on your legs, you just run as you would do normally – around the block, along the trail, across the park, or wherever you want to go – for however long you want. Collecting data as they go, independent of any lab equipment, means that you are not stuck on a treadmill, and can run outside in your natural running environment. The great thing about this is that it gives you high quality data from actual running, outside, on trails or road, but not from running on a treadmill.

Dorsa-Vi
ViMove2 sensors

This also means that this is very accessible technology. You don’t need to book lab time, the tech is available for everyone to take advantage of – as the marketing material says, it’s democratic – all runners, all ages and all abilities can benefit from using the data that ViMoves2 provides.

How it works

Each of the sensors contain a gyroscope, accelerometer and magnetometer and as you run, these collect data from each leg. Measures for Ground Reaction Force (GRF), Initial Peak Acceleration (IPA), Ground Contact Time (GCT) are collected and combined to give a further measure of Absolute Symmetry Index (ASI), along with the runners cadence and speed.

What that means is that the instantly downloaded data from the sensors at the end of my run gave Shane information on the force I exerted on the ground as my feet struck, the vertical acceleration / deceleration and ‘load through legs’ on impact, the time each foot spends on ground, and the balance of this, as well as my foot turn over speed and actual speed. These are presented in a report on the screen, so you can see results in real time, and work out what you need to do to fix any issues that come up.

Combined with video analysis, Shane has a visual and actual view of what’s happening with the runner, and where any inefficiencies might lie.

Results

After my first run, a few things were very evident. My ground contact time is far too long, and my cadence a long way from optimal. The sensors also picked up that I am quite one sided and have a bias towards my right side. Whilst I was aware of this, as I could feel it, it’s not something that was visually obvious and not something I could explain.

DorsaVi report
DorsaVi report

Using this information, Shane was able to recommend some changes and ‘things to work on’ to improve my foot turn over and the right-side bias. With this in mind and taking the advice from Shane, I set out for another lap to see how I fared. Got the results, looked at them in conjunction with how it felt for me and how I looked on video, and then another lap, with ‘better’ results every time. Not only did the sensors say I was better, I felt a lot better too. I burst out laughing at one point on my last lap as it felt so good to be cruising along with a more efficient style.

This was only an introductory meeting, but I came away enthused and invigorated about my running, with a new spring in my step. The session has instantly given me pointers and guidance I can use on every run going forward and it already feels better, easier, more flowing and dynamic.

If you are looking to become more efficient, or you feel like you are stuck in a rut, or have lost your running mojo, then I thoroughly recommend finding a coach that uses the ViMove sensors. Just one session will give you plenty of information to work with and I fully expect you to benefit from the insights and pointers this data gives you.

In my case, I’ve got a new focus to my running and am confident I’ll have this symmetry problem resolved before I do too much more damage to my right leg. With a 100 mile run around Snowdonia coming up, this knowledge gives me a much better chance of finishing in one piece.

Find out more about ViMove2 and where you can get an assessment here

Find out more about Shane Benzie and his movement coaching at Running Reborn here