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Leg length discrepancy - its effects on skiing

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

Anybody got any experience or knowledge of how a leg length discrepancy affects those turns?

I'm looking for specifics, such as difficulties initiating, stems. tail wash-out, and stuff like that.  

As instructors we often assume those issues can disappear with movement pattern solutions.  

I'm wondering when we might start thinking it's anatomy rather than technical skill.

post #2 of 15

Depends on the skiing style.  A skier who balances on the outside leg with very little weight on the inside during a turn will have little effect from the leg length.  A skier with equal weight on both feet while turning, on firm snow, may have problems especially when turning to the direction of the long leg.

 

My leg length varies when I need a sacroiliac joint adjusted.  The chiropractor does this effectively.  It makes a difference in my movement for everything, not just skiing.  This is hip misalignment.  Actual leg length variation is different.

http://www.spine-health.com/video/chiropractic-adjustment-sacroiliac-joint-video

post #3 of 15

I'm also interested in answers on this question. Guess i'm about to find out for myself.

 

Recently dug out some old hospital records where my leg length difference was measured by X-ray to be 16 mm. I'm planning to put 6 mm shims under the binding of the short leg. Don't have much back pain issues and plan on just compensating it while skiing and not in other types of shoes.

 

Symptoms: Will it be like skiing on a slight sidehill even when you are trying to go straight down the falline?

post #4 of 15

Last season I saw a boot fitter who thought my right leg was shorter. He ended up shimming it to add some height. I don't remember the numbers exactly, but we estimated my right leg was shorter by 6 mm, and he shimmed the boot by 4mm because that was the most the boot would allow to still work with the binding.

 

As far as skiing, it made a difference, but not a drastic one. Turns going to the left were easier to initiate. Although my leg length difference is hardly noticeable, I also don't know if it's "real". I haven't gotten x-rayed and I'm not about to spend the money just to find out.


Edited by nemesis256 - 12/17/15 at 5:52am
post #5 of 15

My right leg is about 1/2" shorter than my left leg as a result of a shattered femur when I was 26.  I notice it skinning on side hills sometimes.  It used to bother me more when I was first getting serious about skiing.  My right leg will probably never be as strong as my left as a result of two major injuries to my right leg..  In the last few years as I have become a more technical skier and have been getting scrutinized more closely a few of my trainers have noted an asymmetry in my skiing.  They were not able to pin point it to leg length discrepancy until I told them.  It can be seen in video.  It doesn't bother me too much, but PSIA examiners hate that shit.  Functionally I'd say it's not a problem, but to shut them up about form & PSIA style I have been masking it by really focusing on extra shortening of the left inside leg on turns to the left.  Of course this extra shortening also leads to a bit more inside tip lead on that turn.  When I get lazy with this adjustment the video shows a tendency for the right outside leg to lag a tiny bit and catch up at the end of the turn.  It's not much of a functional difference, but it's stylistically unacceptable to the average Uhtard PSIA examiner.

 

I bugs me that I have to deliberately create an asymmetry to mask my physiological reality and create the appearance of a symmetrical body position.  I have always believed that form follows function.  The tracks in the snow are symmetrical.  Silly me, I always thought it was about the ski snow interaction.

post #6 of 15

I have a leg length discrepancy as well -- the right leg is 6mm or so shorter than the left, so there's a shim bolted to the bottom of my right boot to fix that.

 

I've never gotten x-rays to confirm it, but I know I find it strange (for lack of a better word) to "stand up straight" as it feels like I'm standing on one leg when I do that (probably because I am).  So basically every picture of me (i.e., in street clothes) shows me with the left leg slightly bent so that I can get equal weight on both feet.

 

It's been a loooonnnngggg time since I've been in ski boots that weren't modified in some way to correct the issue.  For a while it was corrected by canting the boot soles -- i.e., grinding them to whatever angle is required to get me stand straight (i.e., with one leg shorter than the other, you're essentially tipped to one side).  My current boot guy noticed that that solution didn't get me to "equally weighted" while standing there in the shop, but once he started putting flat shims under one foot (to fix his suspicions that there was a leg-length issue) I both straightened out and stood "normally".

post #7 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by tetonpwdrjunkie View Post

 

...I bugs me that I have to deliberately create an asymmetry to mask my physiological reality and create the appearance of a symmetrical body position.  I have always believed that form follows function.  The tracks in the snow are symmetrical.  Silly me, I always thought it was about the ski snow interaction.

 

Yeah. My right leg is congenitally wonky: femur has a little rotational problem, and leg is up to 2 cm shorter. (That was measured by p.t. once, not sure if that's really the actual discrepancy. My foot doctor x-rayed me and confirmed a noticeable discrepancy, but he didn't measure.) I have had some boot work done, lift on sole and a bit of planing, maybe a little height on the orthotic, too, but it doesn't correct the entire bit. My orthotic for everyday use has a couple mm on it, and I have started noticing that if I don't wear it, my hip sometimes pops a bit when I walk. 

 

Anyway, I decided not to worry too much about it re skiing. The alterations have helped for sure, but I'm not trying to win any awards for my visual appearance. Plus, my legs are quite long for my height, which just exacerbates all that stuff. I could do more, but... meh.

post #8 of 15

Nothing specific can be said for a leg length discrepancy in a forum such as this because leg length discrepancy has many causes. As a boot fitter and ski instructor I am cautious whenever I encounter a difference.   Trying the wrong fix can aggravate other medical conditions and make things worse in the long run. 

 

I basically put leg length discrepancies into two categories.  Anatomical meaning joint and bone issues and Functional meaning muscle/ tendon imbalances pulling things out of whack. It is not always easy to determine what the cause may be.  The first thing I do is ask and often times the person is well aware of what the problem is. 

 

If the leg length discrepancy is related to muscle imbalance the obvious thing to do is address that issue with physical therapy or some other type of structured approach.  Muscular imbalances can be long term where the persons skiing does not really change over time or vary widely during a single day and may involve muscle cramping.  Sleep and dehydration are big culprits in leg length changes within a single day.

 

When it comes to anatomical differences the approach needs to be cautious.  The easiest fix is if the leg length discrepancy is under a half inch and exists in the tibia/fibula (lower leg) where a simple lift may cure the problem. If the discrepancy involves the knees, ankle, hip joint or spine you need a doctor involved in the fix.  You can be in for some real hurt with innocent seeming fixes.  If the problem exists in the femur and is not greater than a half inch you have some options depending on your skiing style but still a doctor should be involved.  Greater than a half inch in the femurs and I doubt you will get a real satisfactory fix although you can improve the situation.

 

What you see on the snow depends on where the problem is and what the skier perceives and to a large extent on what the skier thinks is good skiing.   In general what you will see is a difference in ski tip lead between right and left turn and in a simple traverse both directions across the slope.    You will tend to see banking/ inclination to start a turn where the short leg will be on the inside and a shoulder rock or counter rotation with tail push or hip angulation to start the turn when the long leg will be on the inside.  There is likely to be a tendency to hang onto the turn longer when the new inside leg for the next turn is going to be the longer leg.

 

The skier with a shorter leg is also less likely to be aware of the compensations and not know what they look like skiing. 


Edited by Pierre - 1/6/16 at 9:19am
post #9 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pierre View Post
 

Nothing specific can be said for a leg length discrepancy in a forum such as this because leg length discrepancy has many causes. As a boot fitter and ski instructor I am cautious whenever I encounter a difference.   Trying the wrong fix can aggravate other medical conditions and make things worse in the long run. 

 

I basically put leg length discrepancies into two categories.  Anatomical meaning joint and bone issues and Functional meaning muscle/ tendon imbalances pulling things out of whack. It is not always easy to determine what the cause may be.  The first thing I do is ask and often times the person is well aware of what the problem is. 

 

If the leg length discrepancy is related to muscle imbalance the obvious thing to do is address that issue with physical therapy or some other type of structured approach.  Muscular imbalances can be long term where the persons skiing does not really change over time or vary widely during a single day and may involve muscle cramping.  Sleep and dehydration are big culprits in leg length changes within a single day.

 

When it comes to anatomical differences the approach needs to be cautious.  The easiest fix is if the leg length discrepancy is under a half inch and exists in the tibia/fibula (lower leg) where a simple lift may cure the problem. If the discrepancy involves the knees, ankle, hip joint or spine you need a doctor involved in the fix.  You can be in for some real hurt with innocent seeming fixes.  If the problem exists in the femur and is not greater than a half inch you have some options depending on your skiing style but still a doctor should be involved.  Greater than a half inch in the femurs and I doubt you will get a real satisfactory fix although you can improve the situation.

 

What you see on the snow depends on where the problem is and what the skier perceives and to a large extent on what the skier thinks is good skiing.   In general what you will see is a difference in ski tip lead between right and left turn and in a simple traverse both directions across the slope.    You will tend to see banking/ inclination to start a turn where the short leg will be on the inside and a shoulder rock or counter rotation with tail push or hip angulation to start the turn when the long leg will be on the inside.  There is likely to be a tendency to hang onto the turn longer when the new inside leg for the next turn is going to be the longer leg.

 

The skier with a shorter leg is also less likely to be aware of the compensations and not know what they look like skiing. 

You are precisely  right that there are both functional and true or anatomical short legs.  There is much confusion regarding these conditions even with in the medical profession.  There are screening tests which help determine the magnitude and type of short leg that exists.  There are prone and supine leg checks,  the Allis test, there are measurements with a tape measure from different landmarks on the lower extremities, standing pelvic xray can be used in assisting  in the evaluation,  you can sit with the lower legs straight with the feet sitting on the floor and check for uneven heights of the knees using a level.  When a true leg length discrepancy exists or even a functional one that can't be balanced even with manual methods as well as physical therapies, then a heel lift may be indicated.   There is a very simple evaluation process which can be used to determine the amount of lift that may be appropriate.  You can check this on yourselves whether you have an imbalance or not.  If you do not have an imbalance you can create one with a shim and then use this method to make a correction.   The human body is very sensitive to balancing and awareness of balance.   Try this,   Take a book and use different the pages to create varying thicknesses of shims.  Start with a few pages and keep adding pages until you feel way off.   Then back down on the thickness till you feel balanced.  You can do this several times until you become sensitive to what feels right. One common cause of true acquired leg length inequality now a days is in folks who have had a hip joint replacement.  As hard as the surgeons try to get the lengths right, sometimes they miss. Other causes of true short legs include a history of hip joint diseases, fractured legs, lower extremity growth deformities. Functional short legs can occur with pelvic obliquity, para spinal muscle spasms, unilateral ankle pronation, scoliosis (spinal curvatures)   If you have a leg length inequality and tinker with the book page shim test you will quickly  learn what thickness shim is most appropriate.  I like this screening test because it is more functional than a guess made based of evaluating just the anatomy.   YM

post #10 of 15

I have had both a physical therapist and a boot fitter tell me that one leg is significantly longer than the other.   In my case it is my understanding that my hips adjust for the difference in leg length. The PT guy gave me a hill lift to put in my sneaker for running and the boot fitter shimmed my boot.  Frankly I did not find that the shim in my boot made any difference and I never bothered to have it addressed since.   It seems to me that since we are always extending one leg while shorting the other that these sorts of differences should not be a big problem in terms of skiing.   I have read that leg length differentials have been used to justify larger shims for FIS competition but I have no idea if that is true or not.

post #11 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pierre View Post
 

Nothing specific can be said for a leg length discrepancy in a forum such as this because leg length discrepancy has many causes. As a boot fitter and ski instructor I am cautious whenever I encounter a difference.   Trying the wrong fix can aggravate other medical conditions and make things worse in the long run. 

 

I basically put leg length discrepancies into two categories.  Anatomical meaning joint and bone issues and Functional meaning muscle/ tendon imbalances pulling things out of whack. It is not always easy to determine what the cause may be.  The first thing I do is ask and often times the person is well aware of what the problem is. 

 

If the leg length discrepancy is related to muscle imbalance the obvious thing to do is address that issue with physical therapy or some other type of structured approach.  Muscular imbalances can be long term where the persons skiing does not really change over time or vary widely during a single day and may involve muscle cramping.  Sleep and dehydration are big culprits in leg length changes within a single day.

 

When it comes to anatomical differences the approach needs to be cautious.  The easiest fix is if the leg length discrepancy is under a half inch and exists in the tibia/fibula (lower leg) where a simple lift may cure the problem. If the discrepancy involves the knees, ankle, hip joint or spine you need a doctor involved in the fix.  You can be in for some real hurt with innocent seeming fixes.  If the problem exists in the femur and is not greater than a half inch you have some options depending on your skiing style but still a doctor should be involved.  Greater than a half inch in the femurs and I doubt you will get a real satisfactory fix although you can improve the situation.

 

What you see on the snow depends on where the problem is and what the skier perceives and to a large extent on what the skier thinks is good skiing.   In general what you will see is a difference in ski tip lead between right and left turn and in a simple traverse both directions across the slope.    You will tend to see banking/ inclination to start a turn where the short leg will be on the inside and a shoulder rock or counter rotation with tail push or hip angulation to start the turn when the long leg will be on the inside.  There is likely to be a tendency to hang onto the turn longer when the new inside leg for the next turn is going to be the longer leg.

 

The skier with a shorter leg is also less likely to be aware of the compensations and not know what they look like skiing. 

 

I was just told by a highly respected pedorthist/bootfitter in Park City that I have about a 5mm leg length discrepancy. The bolded above describes my skiing to a T. My right leg is the shorter one and I have a hell of a time initiating left turns. I hang onto my right turns for days, when my left leg (the longer leg) is going to be the new inside leg.

 

The question begs whether it's truly a shorter leg vs. an imbalance in either the pelvic area, how would adding a shim under the boot sole NOT be helpful? What if the discrepancy comes from even higher? I have dislocated my right shoulder several times and it now drops and has done that for 25+ years. As a result, my ribs are more compressed on that side, and of course that affects everything on down. How would it be bad to shim under that boot to lift theoretically that entire side of the body up a few mm to compensate? I have zero back issues to speak of.

 

Also, would duct taping under the boot soles be an effective way to test to see how helpful it would be? If so, how much duct tape is safe? And how do you keep it from coming off in the snow?

post #12 of 15

A lot of people use strips of duct tape on one side of the boot or the other to test out cant adjustments.   I have skied entire seasons this way.   I am not sure how it would work in your case where you are talking about using it across the entire contact surface of the boot.   Most ski shops will not recommend this sort of thing for safety reasons and I don't think you could raise it very much that way anyway.    If you have an old pair of boots you could have a shop with the proper tooling shave down the top portion of the toe and heel and apply shims to the bottom of whichever boot needs to be raised for your short leg and see how it feels.   I had it done once and it didn't do much for me but your results may be different.    Another method is to mount shims under the binding of one of your skis.   The nice thing about this method is it is reversible, however it does mean you are stuck with a dedicated left and right ski which limits you in other ways like when you want to switch edges or tune one set of edges differently than the other.

post #13 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by tlougee View Post
 

A lot of people use strips of duct tape on one side of the boot or the other to test out cant adjustments.   I have skied entire seasons this way.   I am not sure how it would work in your case where you are talking about using it across the entire contact surface of the boot.   Most ski shops will not recommend this sort of thing for safety reasons and I don't think you could raise it very much that way anyway.    If you have an old pair of boots you could have a shop with the proper tooling shave down the top portion of the toe and heel and apply shims to the bottom of whichever boot needs to be raised for your short leg and see how it feels.   I had it done once and it didn't do much for me but your results may be different.    Another method is to mount shims under the binding of one of your skis.   The nice thing about this method is it is reversible, however it does mean you are stuck with a dedicated left and right ski which limits you in other ways like when you want to switch edges or tune one set of edges differently than the other.


I'd put the lift inside the boot.  I know it will affect fit a little but less risk with binding interface.  That is if what you are trying to do is check for leg length imbalance.  YM

post #14 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by yogaman View Post
 


I'd put the lift inside the boot.  I know it will affect fit a little but less risk with binding interface.  That is if what you are trying to do is check for leg length imbalance.  YM


I have a very tight fit, so there wouldn't be any room for one inside. I am meeting with my fitter sometime this week to see what we can sort out. It might be more of an issue of needing toe lifts and some more posting on that footbed.

post #15 of 15

Sorry to be late to the party... But I've had to deal with this issue.  Until my knee was replaced my left was almost 3/4" shorter than my right.  My situation was a bit more complicated because I have hard scar tissue in my ankle that prevents dorsiflexion.  Every individual will be different.   I used a combination of heel lift, support under the toes, Boot sole grinding and body position adjustments to compensate. 

 

In a situation where leg length is the only issue I would recommend working with lateral body position combined with a little help with canting to help compensate.  Heel lifts can be helpful in some cases without throwing off fore/aft stance if the skier (or boot tech) knows how to compensate. A huge difference in leg length might be difficult to complete compensate for, but small amounts under 1" should be no problem. FWIW before my boot soles were ground my boots has +1degrees on one side and -1 (or .5) degrees on the other. Then it was a matter of finding the lateral position to facility the differences.  YMMV

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