Leg length differences and cleat adjustment

Discussion in 'Cycling Equipment' started by DanP, Feb 16, 2005.

  1. DanP

    DanP New Member

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    Not a 100% sure which forum to post this into, but it is equipment related so I'll try it here.

    I've been suffering from ITBS on my left knee for a couple of years but it only affects my running, not my biking.

    Finally got fit for orthotics and it turns out one of my legs is over 1/4" off in length.

    But that also explains why I have this constant nagging sensation that my left cleat is not even with my right one on long rides, feels like the left cleat is installed 1/2" or so forward of where the right cleat is.

    In reality they are both bolted in exactly the same place in both shoes.

    So the question now becomes:

    * Should I install a shim or something to compensate for pedal height (compensate at the pedal level)

    or

    * Should I wear my orthotics with my bike shoes and compensate that way (at the shoe level)

    or

    * Should I just install my cleats asymetrically to compensate for the offset.

    I'm sure this is relatively common for cyclists, is there a preferred method?

    Thanks in advance!
     
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  2. zakman

    zakman New Member

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    I have the same problem but more extreme - left leg from the knee down is 3/4 inch shorter than the right. That's a lot, so in my case I add about 1/4 inch of shim under the cleat then move the left cleat forward. This moves the foot back, which raises the heel and causes a leg length correction. With a little tweaking, I actually have the knee bend angle of both legs exactly the same. I have no problem with the slight toe-down effect in the left foot.

    In your case I'd try to go with just the shims - 1/4+ is not too much, and the less difference between your two leg positions the better. At the same time, you don't want the shims too high or they can start to affect stability on the pedal, so maybe a slight bit of cleat offset could work, too. It doesn't take much - I only move the cleat forward about 1/4 inch and that pops the ankle right up.

    With all that said, if you have podiatrist made orthotics that correct your problem, and if they fit in your shoes, it seems to me that would be much better than messing with the cleats. Then you could keep the legs even more symmetrical.

    Good luck!
     
  3. alienator

    alienator Well-Known Member

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    I'd seek out a quality bike fitter in your area. You will, no doubt, need your cleat shimmed. I don't think the best solution is only shimming your cleat for part of the difference and then making up the rest by moving the cleat fore or aft. This will only cause your short leg to work differently than it had before, but not work correctly.

    IMHO, the best possible solution would be to have an orthopod, physical therapist, or summat measure the difference in leg length. Said people will most prolly measure correctly.

    One of my legs was shortened by 3/8", and it ended up torturing me on the bike w/ knee pain, assymetric saddle sores, and eventually back pain. The shimming helped.
     
  4. Jaguar27

    Jaguar27 New Member

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    I've heard that some have different Crank lengths either side of the Bike...would this help take up at least some of the difference?

     
  5. George K.

    George K. New Member

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    This is interesting because I get these pains on my left leg that I don`t get on the right. I also keep getting a saddle sore on the left side at the point of touching the saddle. Can you explain a little more which side you had problems with regarding saddle sores and knee pain, and on which cleat did you add a shim?
    Thanks
     
  6. lumpy

    lumpy New Member

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    I put an extra insole in my shorter leg's shoe.
     
  7. zakman

    zakman New Member

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    I agree with you on finding a good fitter - I assumed that was the first step but should've said it myself. By the way, all of what I said above I got over the course of several professional fittings with good people. My difference is also pretty extreme - nearly an inch from the knee to the ankle, measured by several doctors over the years.

    For the original poster, more subtle changes are probably in line, and I hope you get it worked out soon!
     
  8. alienator

    alienator Well-Known Member

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    My shortened leg is my right leg. The knee pains that I had were actually in my left knee, and the saddle sores were to the left of my genetic repository. I had unknowingly shifted my body to the right to correct the difference in pedal stroke between left and right. Back pain was lower back. I decided to get re-fit once I noticed that I had worn through the leather on my Flite saddle on the left.

    One other thing that had to be corrected was a screwed up spin. My body had adopted a toe down--on the right--pedaling stroke. So once I got the cleat shimmed out, I set about re-training each leg by starting each ride by spinning easy, for about a half mile, with only one foot clipped in. Then I'd repeat w/ the other foot.
     
  9. George K.

    George K. New Member

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    You don`t know how much this helps! I am going to try adding a shim to my right cleat today. I have been having exactly the same problems in saddle sores and the saddle is worn out on the left side. I thought that because my left leg might have been a bit longer, I was pushing harder on that side and that was why I had the pain on the left knee. My right knee wasn`t giving me any problems at all.
    Thanks for the enlightenment! I`ll keep you posted in about 3 to 4 weeks if it`s helped.
     
  10. davidbod

    davidbod New Member

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    I've got 1/4" of stack on my right shoe under the cleat. It made all the difference on longer rides. If you can actually measure the difference then you want to adjust for only half of the actual measured difference. This is assuming the difference is not due to something recent as over time your body has adjusted already, and correcting for all of it will be just as bad as leaving it alone. I was able to measure my lower leg discrepency (below the knee) by sitting in a chair and measuring from the floor to the same bony protrusion under the knee on each leg. I then measured my total leg length by standing at a wall and measuring to my hip bone on both sides. All of my dicrepency is in my lower leg which makes the cleat shim the perfect solution. If the discrepency is in the upper leg you can fiddle with your cleat fore and aft positioning to compensate. You would move the cleat forward on the shorter leg and back on the longer leg. The total amount you move both cleats combined should again be half the leg length discrepency.

    If in doubt go with small changes over time, as making these kinds of adjustments is the same as adjusting your saddle height / fore-aft postioning.
     
  11. RC2

    RC2 New Member

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    I've got a quarter inch shim on the R side too... funny what a difference such a slight change can make. Like another poster one of my symptoms was lower back pain from compensation (it was a nawing thing that I didn't expect to be related to the discrepancy until after adding the shim).

    An another note:
    What do you call a woman with one leg shorter than the other standing on a hill? Ilean.

    What do you call a japanese woman with one leg shorter than the other standing on a hill? Irean.

    :p
     
  12. DanP

    DanP New Member

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    Thanks for all the replies folks, this ended up being more interesting than I thought.

    As a triathlete I'd prefer to adjust/shim the cleat and keep my orthos in the running shoes for obvious reasons.

    But now I have a secondary concern - I've been biking without pain, and although I'm sure I have some of the bad habits mentioned above like toe'ing down on my short leg, now I'm wondering if changing something to achieve a more balanced spin may end up hurting more than just staying as I am...

    Maybe I shouldn't disturb that and keep the orthos to the running, where it hurts.

    Luckily I happen to be in the process of buying another nice bike right now, so when I go for my fitting next week I'll bring that up see where it leads.

    Thanks again!
     
  13. jasong

    jasong New Member

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    DanP, when / how did the ITBS manifest itself? Had you been running for a long time? I have had the same issue for about 3 years now and all the stretching and strengthening hasn't helped, so I'm curious if I have a leg length discrepancy.

    Have the orthotics really helped your running? How soon did you notice it? And, what kind of pace/distances do you run? I really don't notice much unless I go over 3 miles.

     
  14. DanP

    DanP New Member

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    Hi Jason,

    I'm a newer runner, been at it only a couple of years. ITBS strikes me usually after two or three miles, and can stop me after six when its flared.

    Like you stretching / massage, etc. has not helped so decided to find someone to tell me what was causing it, if it was biomechanical.

    A knee surgeon just stamped me with "overuse", pretty useless in my book.

    After talking to a few Physical Therapists I found someone who took about 45 min to measure me in lots of aspects, including flexibility along various planes. He is the guy that fit me for orthos, which I should get in a week or two. Will post results here after I've had them for a bit.

    In the meantime I'm off running, which sucks but so be it since there is light at the end of the tunnel.

    If you can, consider visiting a good PT - its pretty inexpensive and could help your individual case a lot.

    Good luck!
     
  15. jasong

    jasong New Member

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    I'm anxious to hear your results. I've minimized most of my pain through good stretching, doing lunges, and cross training. But I'm not able to run high volume like I could 4 years ago, like 40 miles a week. I don't really want to anymore, but concern over causing long term damage is on my mind.

     
  16. gerardbjr

    gerardbjr New Member

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    Never dealt with the problem myself, but Lemond Fitness makes a product called LeWedge (http://lemondfitness.com/products/lewedge/index.html) which is a shim that fits between the shoe and cleat. It is meant to correct leg length differences and foot tilt. You might want to check it out.
     
  17. mark_e_smith

    mark_e_smith New Member

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    WOW, thanks man, the lemond site is a huge help. I was actually thinking of doing this myself, as I have definately noticed a soft feeling on the outer edge of my foot, like I have to support it up to put power to the big toe area. It seems i might need the canting to the inside and possibly stack the right side higher, as i lean on that side and have problems on my left. many years of annoying tics!
     
  18. DanP

    DanP New Member

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    Figured I'd post an update - I've had my orthos for a few weeks now, had to switch shoes to neutral ones (Nike Pegasus worked well for me, roomy and very cushioned), and have been able to run without any real pain since.

    Granted I am just restarting and stick to short runs (5k) 4 or 5 times a week, will start gradually increasing soon.

    So it seems to be helping.

    One more thing that I changed, potentially huge: I bought this thing called "The Stick" at the running store, seemed like an overpriced, "As seen on TV" type of gimmick but I figured I'd try it... seems to be working wonders - I can't remember my left leg muscles being this loose (in a good way) for well over a year!
     
  19. mark_e_smith

    mark_e_smith New Member

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    yeah, the rolling pin style massager. those things work awesome.
     
  20. stang106

    stang106 New Member

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    Ummm, so how do I find out if I have one leg shorter than the other? I am about to get a bike fit done and this seems logical?

    Dave
     
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