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Does Leg Size Discrepancy Matter for Runners?

Does Leg Size Discrepancy Matter for Runners?



Our articles usually are not designed to switch medical recommendation. When you have an harm we suggest seeing a professional well being skilled. To e book an appointment with Tom Goom (AKA ‘The Operating Physio’) go to our clinic web page. We provide each in-person assessments and on-line consultations.

I got here throughout an fascinating quote from a paper this week that acquired me considering…

“Solely 10% of the inhabitants has precisely equal decrease limb lengths”

It was from this paper (Gordon and Davis 2019) which went on to say that roughly 90% of individuals have a leg size discrepancy of as much as 1cm.

Now, delving into this a bit it appears this examine is referencing earlier work by Knutson (2005) who reported that the common leg size distinction was 5.2 mm and went on to say that for most individuals this distinction doesn’t turn into clinically important till it reaches roughly 2cm.

These figures acquired me pondering an fascinating query – if solely 10% of individuals have equal leg size, does that make symmetry irregular?

I put this query on the market on social media… it didn’t go properly!!

There have been plenty of responses telling me I used to be unsuitable and {that a} distinction as little as 3mm to 5mm might affect biomechanics, trigger ache and ‘set folks up for harm’. So I delved into this a bit extra and right here’s what I discovered…

A newer paper (Vogt et al. 2020) provides a pleasant overview of the subject together with these 5 high takeaways on Leg Size Discrepancy (LLD):

  1. It’s arduous to precisely measure LLD in a scientific setting and reliably detect variations of lower than 1cm.
  2. There could also be a hyperlink between a LLD of greater than 1cm and knee osteoarthritis however LLD was not discovered to be an element that will result in the event of again ache in plenty of research.
  3. LLD has a larger impact on double-leg stance actions (e.g. extended standing). The impact of LLD in single-leg stance actions is lessened because the gluteal muscle tissue are in a position to stabilise the pelvis. [NOTE: running typically doesn’t include a double-leg stance phase].
  4. There’s a lack of strong proof to help the choice of when to provoke therapy and it shouldn’t be based mostly solely on the magnitude of the LLD (i.e. what number of centimetres it’s).
  5. The therapy could also be completely different in rising youngsters in comparison with adults who’ve reached skeletal maturity (this paper mentions each).

Like many issues in affected person care this matter is nuanced. We are able to’t dismiss it altogether as irrelevant for all however likewise we have to be very cautious in assuming we will precisely determine a small LLD (e.g. lower than 1cm) and that it’s related for somebody’s ache.

The kind of LLD is essential too e.g. purposeful v structural and congenital v acquired (e.g. submit surgical procedure). Our our bodies can adapt to our anatomy so we will handle a long-standing discrepancy. It’s unlikely {that a} affected person’s anatomy has immediately modified and explains new ache. Nonetheless, with lately acquired LLD this represents a big new change to biomechanics and could also be extra related.

Vogt et al. (2020) offered this convenient desk to information therapy:

A current systematic evaluate (Alfuth et al. 2021) concluded that the ‘block take a look at’ often is the most precious evaluation technique for LLD in clinic:

“The block take a look at seems to be probably the most helpful scientific evaluation to measure LLD, adopted by utilizing gadgets, such because the pelvimeter. All different scientific exams appear to be not helpful and should due to this fact be averted by the clinicians and physiotherapists.”

What about runners?

One thing that defines operating is that in a run we don’t are likely to have each toes on the bottom on the similar time. It’s quickly shifting from one single-leg stance to a different with some flight time in-between. Consequently, operating is much less more likely to be influenced by leg size variations and analysis has reported that LLD was not related to the event of operating harm (Hespanol Junior et al. 2016 & Rauh et al. 2018). Rauh et al. (2018) was a examine of 393 highschool runners. They discovered that leg-length inequality was not related to operating harm, with the exception that male runners with a LLD of greater than 1.5 cm had been at larger probability of growing a decrease leg harm (shin/calf). A tape measure was used to evaluate leg size which can have influenced accuracy.


It seems small leg size discrepancies of as much as 1cm are quite common and unlikely to be related to ache in lots of circumstances, particularly in runners. A current evaluate from Applebaum et al. (2021) sums this up properly:

“Size variations are usually lower than 10 mm and asymptomatic or simply compensated for by the affected person via self-lengthening or shortening of the decrease extremities.”

Nonetheless, LLD over 2cm are thought to change biomechanics and loading patterns and could also be related to musculoskeletal issues.

Variations of 1 to 2cm are maybe a gray space. There’s some proof a LLD of 1cm can alter biomechanics so could also be price exploring when you assume it’s related to ache. A small in-shoe elevate is a straightforward factor to check to see if it helps signs or alters motion.

One ultimate, essential level… from the response to my submit on social media, it’s clear there are nonetheless clinicians who imagine our our bodies can’t address a tiny quantity of asymmetry. They prompt that even 5mm would have catastrophic results via the foot and ankle, up the chain to the knee, hip and decrease again. That is merely not the case! Most of you studying this may most likely have a leg size distinction of 5mm or extra with out even realising it! Let’s not scare our sufferers with these horror tales and make them lose belief of their our bodies.

For extra on operating accidents, their evaluation and therapy be part of us on the Operating Repairs Course. We cowl every little thing you must get nice outcomes for runners in your care! Go to our course web page to seek out out extra and e book your house.



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