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  1. #1
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    Sooo....I have a huge leg length discrepancy

    IF you want to skip to the BIKE RELEVANT portion: see #3.

    Over these last few years I've developed a horrific lopsided love handle, which my fiance has dubbed as "the mutant". I went to play ball the other day and couldn't get up the next day, shooting pain through SI joint, swollen side, muscle spasms. Finally, after years of feeling tense and tender, and generally living life crooked, I decided to do something about it. Well, to be exact, my fiance decided to do something about it. I would have probably suffered for years to come. I just got back from a orthopedic surgeon (trusted family guy, a shopping bag full of ACL's between two families) and it turns out that I have a rather large leg discrepancy of 10-15mm! He says it's 15mm but I don't believe it so I'll just call it 10. Now that it's been presented as a possibility, I feel like I've been limping on my tight right side for years. When I was a young lad, 17 years ago, I had a compound fracture of my right leg and this is what caused the discrepancy.

    1. I'm bummed because my research revealed that my huge right love-handle (extremely overdeveloped compensating oblique muscle) won't go away that easily. It looks grotesque. It's amazing how long a human can live with an ailment that creeps up on you over time and is just under your pain threshold. Hopefully, when I stop recruiting this muscle group with every step it'll at least stop growing.

    2. Heel, platform lift on one leg... these are nice and they're certainly better than a slab of wood from the 1800's but still, they change the dynamics of footwear. Hopefully, the more natural pain free step will be worth it.

    3. How do I address my leg length discrepancy on the bike? I understand that I need shims under my cleat. Where does one get said shims and the longer screws necessary for this? Now that everything is clearer. My right side lower back has been hurting on harder efforts for some time, big seated hills were the worst. I mean I won't shim 1.5cm - that just seems crazy - but anything in between like .75 to get me closer to normal would probably do wonders for me. I don't want to fork money over for a pro-level fitting to address this because there isn't anyone good under $250 in my area...and I don't have $250. My position is fine, I just want to lift the right leg 5mm or more (for starters). My Mavic shoes came with these titanium short screws because of the low profile tub and a low 5mm stack height. I s'pose I can always get screws cut tho. Where do I get shims?

  2. #2
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    I made a shims for my wife's shoes from a sheet of lexan. It's pretty straightforward. If it needs to be thick and the bottom of the shoe is curved front to back, use two or more thinner pieces that will conform to the bend.

    Basically, shim part of the discrepancy then move the cleat forward on the short leg and a bit back on the longer leg. You might also rotate the nose of the saddle a few degrees toward the side with the longer leg. If your comfortable with doing these things and trying them out, do it. If not, seek the help of a good fitter.
    ... 'cuz that's how I roll.

  3. #3
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    At first rotating the saddle a few degrees seems counter intuitive, as it would rotate the pelvic girdle and everything south of it, but I do remember reading about it somewhere. I'll dive into Steve Hogg's stuff which probably addresses this.

    Moving cleats fore and aft sounds like a recipe for trouble, though I'm sure it's sound. If I shim the shorter leg to the height of my longer leg... why would I then in addition do these two things? Seems like they they may be done in lieu of an actual shim. Or are you suggesting I shim half of the discrepancy and then supplement with these methods?

    Thanks for taking the time out to reply!

  4. #4
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    It's no big deal. I ride with 3 shims on my right foot, and my cleat centered. On my left leg I ride with no shims, and the cleat all the way to the back. Your body will adjust, and you'll soon forget they're even there.

    These are my shims: Bike Fit Systems LLC - The leader in Bike Fitting Products and Education

    They have 3 hole shims for Look and Shimano SPD cleats, and 4 hole for speedplays. The kit comes with longer screws, or you can also get longer screws from Home Depot. Look for them in the metric drawers.

    Another thing you can do is lengthen your hamstring muscles. This will allow the knee in your shorter leg to achieve a straighter angle at the bottom of the pedal stroke. Most fitters recommend your knee angles to be between 25 and 35 degrees at the bottom of the pedal stroke. So you could have one knee close to 25 degrees and the other closer to 35 degrees. It's not perfect, but sometimes that's the best you can do. So stretch your hamstrings A LOT.

    Stretching will also allow you to get into a more aero position, and be comfortable in it. All the best riders (Wiggins, Cancellara, Contador, Van Garderen etc.) have excellent hamstring flexibility. I've been stretching for months now, and I can almost touch my toes with the palm of my hand.

    Also, bottom of the pedal stroke is basically when your leg is at it's straightest point, not necessarily when the pedal is at a 90 degree angle to the ground. Usually that point is slightly before the pedal stroke reaches the 90 degree angle to the ground.

  5. #5
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    You could consider a shorter crank on the shorter leg if the compound fracture was in the femur. Then you could actually go with a crank 10 mm shorter.

    If the break was in the Tibia/fibula area, then a more complex fitting may be in order. Perhaps a combination of crank/shim/cleat position.
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  6. #6
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    It was tibia/fibula about halfway up to the knee. Bummer, I'll have to revisit .

    Right now I'm recovering from a sprained back, mild sciatica, starting PT on Monday with someone very capable. I'll ride short until then and revisit this. SFT, thanks for the link! I already placed some orders. It seems your wedges are different from the leg discrepancy package which has a "spacer" and not just wedge. I know you can stack wedges, front to end to create additional spacers. I'll aim for 5mm first.

  7. #7
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    I use approximately 1 cm of shims under my left cleat and it solves my leg length discrepancy issue.

    I use, what was once called ... Lemond Wedges, not sure what they are called now. However you should be able to pick them up from most shops.

    As mentioned, you can also purchase some plastic and use a hack saw, Dremel or other tools to make your own shim ... which in the end will likely work better than stacking 20 shims together to get the needed height. In the future I may make my own.

    With shims that length ... you will exceed the length of screws that come with the shim kit ... However, if you go to a local hardware store you should be able to find some of adequate length ... I go to Ace Hardware and pick up sets of 6 for mine (so I can equip multiple shoes).

    BTW ... 1 cm isn't a huge difference or unheard of .... A guy on my team has a 2" shim under his left cleat ... it's basically a huge block!
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by 9W9W View Post
    It was tibia/fibula about halfway up to the knee. Bummer, I'll have to revisit .

    Right now I'm recovering from a sprained back, mild sciatica, starting PT on Monday with someone very capable. I'll ride short until then and revisit this. SFT, thanks for the link! I already placed some orders. It seems your wedges are different from the leg discrepancy package which has a "spacer" and not just wedge. I know you can stack wedges, front to end to create additional spacers. I'll aim for 5mm first.
    Woops, sorry for not being specific. I actually use the 3 mm spacers. 3 of them, so that's 9mm. Trust me, your leg length discrepancy is nothing out of the ordinary. You'll still be able to ride, and ride strong & fast.

  9. #9
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    If it's tib/fib, keep the cleats in the same position fore/aft (you would move the cleats fore/aft for a femoral LLD), and start by shimming half of the LLD under the cleat.

    Were you in my shop for a fit, I would start there and measure your leg angle at the point of terminal extension. I'd add or subtract shims until both legs measured the same. The body can adapt pretty well, so I wouldn't start by adding 15mm of shims.

    Really though, you need to go get your bike fit.

  10. #10
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    Don't even get me started on pro fits in the NYC area.... I had a bike fit, but it was a BS shop fit. There's a guy here who sprinkles unicorn dust on your steed and adds wattage to your legs, he charges something like three fifty and the line of olympic candidates streches around the month. There seems to be nothing in between. I went to see a highly reputable shop, I got a fitting. It was your basic BS fitting, with perhaps more attention and time devoted. Hell. I can't blame those guys for not measuring my legs when my own podiatrist and orthopedic guy didn't... so I spent the money for a fit and I'm actually quite comfortable up to 60miles...

    I'm just glad it's been picked up on and I can start the road to recovery.

    My plan is to shim 5mm under the affected foot. I sincerely thank you for taking the time to shoot me this quick reply, really. The same goes to the rest of you guys, SFT et al, thanks. Reps all around.
    Last edited by 9W9W; 06-28-2013 at 06:52 PM.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by masont View Post
    If it's tib/fib, keep the cleats in the same position fore/aft (you would move the cleats fore/aft for a femoral LLD)
    This makes total sense now that I think about it.

  12. #12
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    Huge? 10mm? Really?

    Due to a childhood disease, one leg is about 40mm shorter than the other. It has gotten progressively worse over time. Until a few years ago, I did not compensate at all with my road shoes. I then got a few shims and that works fine. The shims are nowhere near the height of the discrepancy. My guess is less than 10 mm in shims.

    Be careful with shoe lifts. I have used 12 mm lifts in the heel of my shoe for a long time. A therapist recommended against increasing the lifts to equalize the lengths. She said that over my lifetime, other parts of my body compensated for the difference and that adding a large lift now might result in other problems - and possibly pain.

  13. #13
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    To me 10mm, he says it's 15mm actually, seems like a pretty big deal. Obviously if you've been afflicted with a disease that manifests similarly then you're rolling your eyes at something of my caliber. Sucks dude, though I'm sure you've learned to live with it.

  14. #14
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    i have a difference of 3/4" in my right leg. i built up my cleat using THEMO-PLY

    worked great

    i used some sheet metal sheers to cut it, it is strong stuff. got the longer screws at LOWES
    Last edited by go do it; 06-30-2013 at 02:54 PM.
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  15. #15
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    So, I am not alone out there.

    I also had a childhood disease that has my right leg 1.5 inches shorter than the left. The great thing about cycling is that the bicycle is a great equalizer for these types of problems.

    Other than shims (which I personally disliked) I have tried making up the difference by changing the crank lengths. Shims seem to work better for smaller discrepancies. Crank lengths seem to help some. However, I have been riding for so long without the change that my back started trying to adjust to the new way.

    My doctor (who is terrific and supportive) suggested that I stay with what I was used to doing. I am happy with my set up and decided the real problem could be fixed with a new bike.

    The new bike had nothing to do with leg length problems. I just try to solve a lot of problems with a new bike.

  16. #16
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    GIMPS UNITE!!!

    I am the OP. Pleasantly surprised at the play this thread has received. My shims are in the mail (thanks SFTifoso!) and my PT advised me to shim less than half of discrepancy at first.

  17. #17
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    As usual, I wasn't too clear about my attempted fix with the crank arms. I had the long leg on a 172 and the short leg had a 175.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Geezer View Post
    As usual, I wasn't too clear about my attempted fix with the crank arms. I had the long leg on a 172 and the short leg had a 175.
    The problem with this is that you can either correct for the bottom or the top of the pedal stroke, but not both. In your case, you've corrected for the top of the pedal stroke, but your legs are going to be at vastly different angles at the bottom of your pedal stroke. Seems like it'd leave you lopsided to me.

    But hey, even though I'd never recommend it, if it works for you good deal.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by 9W9W View Post
    Don't even get me started on pro fits in the NYC area.... I had a bike fit, but it was a BS shop fit. There's a guy here who sprinkles unicorn dust on your steed and adds wattage to your legs, he charges something like three fifty and the line of olympic candidates streches around the month. There seems to be nothing in between. I went to see a highly reputable shop, I got a fitting. It was your basic BS fitting, with perhaps more attention and time devoted. Hell. I can't blame those guys for not measuring my legs when my own podiatrist and orthopedic guy didn't... so I spent the money for a fit and I'm actually quite comfortable up to 60miles...

    I'm just glad it's been picked up on and I can start the road to recovery.

    My plan is to shim 5mm under the affected foot. I sincerely thank you for taking the time to shoot me this quick reply, really. The same goes to the rest of you guys, SFT et al, thanks. Reps all around.
    I need to get some unicorn dust, that's an expensive fit ;)
    Last edited by masont; 07-01-2013 at 09:10 PM.

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