If you have what podiatrists call a limb length discrepancy (LLD) you definitely are unbalanced. You don’t need to feel defensive about it; about 95% of us are unbalanced by as much as a centimeter. (Less than half an inch) When you consider the length of your legs, a centimeter is not very much of a difference. And indeed, when your leg lengths are only about a centimeter different your body can easily compensate for that. But, more than a centimeter or so difference in leg lengths can cause all sorts of problems!
We see problems in the feet, ankles, knees, hips, and even lower back from having uneven leg lengths. I often use the analogy of an unbalanced tire on a car. And unbalanced tire can cause the whole front end of the car to shimmy. Similarly, unbalanced leg lengths can cause problems all the way up to your lower back.
When we watch a patient’s walk I can usually spot differences in their leg lengths if they are more than about a centimeter. We also do a simple test where we have patient stand on a book that helps us better determine leg length differences.
Of course, the more precise way of measuring leg length differences would be to take x-rays from the hips on down and measure the lengths of the bones on the x-rays. (A fair amount of x-rays and expense are involved) We find though that with experience we can judge leg length simply and quite well with our powers of observation.
One of the most satisfying things I do as a podiatrist is to balance people’s feet and legs. When we give people a little lift to try in their shoes, it is surprising how often they will come back and say “Wow — my right knee pain is much better!” or “My lower back pain went away from that simple pad you put my shoe.” My patient is happy – and they have certainly made my day!