Although many of us assume our legs are the same length, it is very common for people to have one leg that is longer than the other. A leg length discrepancy (LLD) sounds alarming but people who have a discrepancy of 1cm may not even know their legs are differing lengths as often they don’t experience any problems. However, if you have pain in your lower back, hip, knee or ankle, or you walk with a limp you should book a consultation with a Canadian Certified Pedorthist. The Pedorthist will advise you if a leg length discrepancy or another foot or lower limb condition is the cause of your discomfort and develop a treatment plan for it.
Leg length discrepancies can be caused by: hip and knee replacements, lower limb injuries, bone diseases, neuromuscular issues and congenital problems. Although discrepancies of 2 cm or less are most common, discrepancies can be greater than 6 cm. People who have LLD tend to make up for the difference by over bending their longer leg or standing on the toes of their shorter leg. This compensation leads to an inefficient, up and down gait, which is quite tiring and over time can result in posture problems as well as pain in the back, hips, knees and ankles.
I typically treat patients who have LLD of up to 1.5 cm with a heel wedge that runs from heel to the ball of the foot. The wedge tapers off to nothing at the ball and is made from a material called LUNACELL. This wedge goes inside the shoe of the short leg. The heel wedge causes the short leg to be raised equalizing the leg length. When the discrepancy is over 2cm, I usually add a lift to the bottom of their shoe. I cut the sole off the patient’s existing shoe then I glue the lift material to the shoe and grind it to meet the exact shape of the sole. Finally I replace the sole of the shoe so it closely matches its mate shoe and provides good wear and traction. The lift equalizes the length of both legs, making standing and walking comfortable.
Heel lifts and sole lifts are simple ways Pedorthists can compensate for leg length deficiencies. These small modifications can make a tremendous difference to a person’s comfort, balance and mobility. Although people do not always know if they have LLD if you have any of the symptoms I have mentioned you should consult a Pedorthist as treating your condition early will reduce the development of serious problems later on.
By Jim Pattison, C. Ped (C), Prince Albert, SK