University of South Florida

Irene Davis is revolutionizing runner’s injury rehab with gait retraining



Irene Davis, PhD, PT, FACSM, FAPTA, FASB, professor in the USF Health School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences, is trying to understand the intricate relationship between lower extremity mechanics and overuse injuries in runners. With a focus on transforming the way runners experience pain and preventing injury, Dr. Davis and her team are researching gait retraining for injury prevention. 

Subject crossing the force plate at a constant velocity to test the three-dimensional components of force being produced on their joints.

At the heart of their research is a force plate used at the center of an elongated runway. This allows individuals to simulate a complete running cycle, starting from acceleration, and crossing the force plate at a consistent velocity. The force plate captures not only vertical forces but also forces in all three dimensions, offering a clearer picture of the intricate nature of the forces exerted when landing. This three-dimensional analysis provides a comprehensive understanding of how alignment and mechanics contribute to the risk of injury.


Reflective markers attached to a subject’s body which supply data with a multi-dimensional perspective on joint movement. Essential for understanding the mechanics involved in running.

To access this data, the research team attaches reflective markers to the subjects’ bodies, which are then tracked by multiple cameras. These complex algorithms decipher the markers’ movements, enabling the researchers to see the angles at the ankle, knee, and hip joints. This approach supplies a multi-dimensional perspective on joint movement, essential for understanding the mechanics involved in running.


The integration of force plate data and marker tracking empowers the team to calculate joint loads and torques, giving a complete picture of the forces experienced by various joints during a runner’s gait cycle. This holistic approach enables Dr. Davis and her team to identify problematic mechanics and design interventions that could alleviate pain and reduce the risk of injury. 

By applying their findings, her team is pioneering an innovative approach to runner rehabilitation. Through a series of sessions involving real-time feedback and targeted practice, the research team has started receiving results. A notable example is a study focused on addressing knee pain, in which participants underwent a tailored gait retraining program. Participants experienced improvements in their alignment and mechanics, easing the persistent pain that they have dealt with for years. 

This groundbreaking research challenges the traditional notion that gait patterns are fixed and unalterable. By bridging the gap between scientific understanding and medical practice, Dr. Davis and her team have proven that gait retraining is not only possible but also effective in alleviating pain and preventing future injuries. The success of their interventions underscores the transformative potential of multidimensional biomechanical analysis in sports medicine. 

The researcher is analyzing data provided by the force plate.

In a field where innovation meets application, Dr. Davis and her team are revolutionizing the way we think about running mechanics and their impact on injuries. This has not only raised awareness but also instilled hope for countless runners who want to run free of pain. Dr. Davis hopes that science and medicine can work hand in hand to reshape runners’ lives.

We hope our clinic and our research will offer injured runners a solution so they are able to continue to run pain-free,” Dr. Davis said. “We really have pioneered this idea of retraining gait patterns. 


Story, photos, and video by Ryan Rossy.

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