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What is a Short Leg?

by MASS4D® Insoles

When you have a leg that is shorter than the other, it is usually an indication of a structural or functional problem. This means, you may either have a leg that is actually shorter in length (structural), or the length of both legs only appears different because of problems elsewhere in the body (functional).

This type of unevenness in the length of the legs not only affects your overall posture, but increases your chances of developing common health complaints such as low back pain and knee pain.

Before trying out any form of treatment, it is useful to know how a short leg develops and some methods you can take to prevent this disorder from becoming worse. If you suspect you have a case of unequal leg length, then it would be worth visiting a posture specialist who can confirm this for you.

Short Leg
Postural changes caused by flat arches.

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While some people with unbalanced legs may never show any symptoms, it is important to treat a severe short leg condition because of the possibility of developing several complications over time.

One of the first signs of a short leg problem is changes in the way you walk; with one side shorter than the other, your whole body tries to compensate for the difference in leg length by adjusting its movement.

As a result of these irregular movement patterns, your hips may appear tilted which could result in added structural problems such as an increased curve of the spine. This can cause pain in the lower back and hips.

Leg length difference such as a short leg is one of the more common causes of poor spinal posture.

Poor spinal posture can lead to the development of conditions such as scoliosis. This can be present in three ways – the spine curving to the left as a single curve; the spine curving to the right as a single curve; or the spine curving both sides, shaped like the letter S.

Structural scoliosis, in many cases, is irreversible and may be caused by spinal injuries or infections, neuromuscular disorders or bone defects from birth. It involves a fixed deviation of the spine from its normal straight position.

Functional scoliosis, on the other hand, occurs in a structurally normal spine that lacks balance and symmetry from left to right side. Functional scoliosis is treated simply by finding the true cause of posture imbalance and correcting it.

Functional Scoliosis

Since the body is not properly aligned, there is excess stress placed on the knee structure while walking which makes people with uneven legs vulnerable to knee pain as well as overuse injuries of the knee.

In such an event, it would be worth getting your feet checked for unhealthy foot movement patterns such as the excessive inward rolling of the foot. This will help in spotting any type of stress resulting from the compensatory movements undertaken by the rest of the body.

It is common to develop pain or injuries repeatedly on one side of the body because of the imbalance in posture which can cause you to place more weight on the longer side as you stand or walk.

Because your muscles have to exert more effort during movement, you may feel tired quickly causing you to struggle while walking even short distances.

With poor posture, there will be a misalignment of the shoulders, back, torso, hips, and/or knees. This can cause tension in the muscles, tendons and ligaments, followed by imbalance in the weight loading patterns. This affects range of motion in joints of the lower and upper body.

What appears as poor posture, unlevelled shoulders and hips, is clinically caused by shifts in the way the legs are positioned. For example, the shin and thigh bones of one leg can rotate inward, creating a change in weight distribution which stresses the joints abnormally.

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A short leg problem may be present at the time of birth due to rare defects in the shin bone or thigh bone.

Some people may have multiple fractures in the long bone of the upper leg and shin bone, that don’t heal properly causing a shortening of the leg; untreated bone infections or diseases in the legs could also cause permanent damage to the leg bones.

Having conditions that affect muscle functioning or strokes can sometimes cause complete loss of movement of one side of the body ultimately leading to a functional short leg condition.

Differences in leg length can sometimes be observed following surgery such as a hip replacement procedure. Proper preventive measures are often taken by surgeons to avoid this situation.

It’s true that sometimes the cause may be unknown especially in cases that involve insufficient growth or overgrowth of one side of the body at the time of birth. It may be difficult to spot this early on but with age, imbalances in leg length become noticeable.


Before deciding on treatment options, your doctor will first examine the size of the difference in leg length; if the length difference is a small one, treatment may not be necessary.

However, if you’re constantly experiencing pain in your legs, hips or back, then it becomes absolutely important to address any unevenness in leg length, no matter how small or big.

Heel lifts are often recommended for treating minor differences in leg length so that the heel is raised to a point where you can walk easily without any problems.

A study in the Archives of Medical Science observed that 83% of the children had a noticeable correction of the back curve during the first two weeks of treatment which involved internal shoe lifts.

Rehabilitation efforts should focus on restoring strength and function in the muscles by selecting exercises that help in pain reduction and improving joint range of motion.

Studies have shown that including both open and closed chain exercises can be beneficial in increasing muscle strength throughout a large range of motion.

Physical therapy in the form of therapeutic exercises can help in proper functioning of the lower body, especially the hips, to prevent functional difficulties from contributing to unequal leg length.

Leg Length Difference

For example, your hip abductor muscles help in rotating the leg at the hip joint and are necessary for movements such as walking or running. Exercises targeted at these muscles can help in bringing improvement in their functioning while also improving walking patterns.

Your therapist will design a rehabilitation programme only after analysing your condition and walking pattern. For example, knee extensions could be recommended if you experience pain while taking steps to walk.

Using MASS4D® Custom Insoles 

MASS4D® custom insoles can be combined with heel lifts and/or shoe modifications to make up for differences in leg length and to enhance the strength of the arches.

When your leg is structurally short, the true short leg causes extra stress on the medial arch that flattens the foot and causes the toes to point outwards.

In case of a poor posture causing an apparent unevenness in leg length, foot insoles help promote proper alignment of the lower body by supporting the foot in its most optimal position during movement.

This is because a flatfoot condition may be associated with misalignment of the hips and low back. The imbalance created by flat feet can cause the hips to tilt forward which produces an exaggerated curve in the spine.

With your feet properly supported, your walking patterns will improve which reduces your chances of developing pain in the lower body, especially in the knees, hips or lower back.

There is a marked reduction in the rotation of the shin and thigh bones, which in turn minimises misalignment in the hips and low back. The reduction of stress on the lower body allows patients to perform sports activities with fewer injury concerns.

When your posture improves, you’ll start to feel the changes in your body from the feet up. Your spine will feel more aligned and your movements will feel more relaxed.

Perfect Orthotic

For those who are recovering from low back pain, MASS4D® can also be used in rehabilitation plans with the aim of preventing foot posture problems from stressing the spine during the healing process.

MASS4D® provides your feet with the support needed to normalise foot movements and prevent problems in the rest of the body.

This supportive force helps to bring balance and stability to your posture while protecting you from developing foot and lower body conditions in the future.

As part of a comprehensive treatment programme, MASS4D® custom insoles can help improve the postural alignment of the body. This can lead to better posture, improved self-confidence and optimal functioning of the bones and muscles.

Whether it’s unequal leg length or a painful foot condition, MASS4D® insoles are designed keeping your needs in mind. Good foot health is no longer difficult to achieve. Get in touch with us and we’ll connect you to a certified MASS4D® provider in your area.


Foot Pain Relief, Injury Prevention, Better Posture and Sports Performance in One Insole     buy now


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