The average person has a slight difference between their left and right leg lengths, but only by 3 or fewer centimeters. If you have a larger leg length difference, you have to be careful when stretching, because one side will take an uneven amount of weight. By stretching one leg at a time, you can work around a difference in leg length and keep each leg equally flexible.
What Causes Uneven Legs?
Some people genetically have legs of different lengths, so it's an issue they were both with. Other people break one of the leg bones, either during adolescence or when they are fully grown, that never heals properly. When you're younger and still growing, breaking bone near a growth plate at the top or bottom of your bone can make that leg stop growing.
Treating Uneven Legs
If you have a leg length difference more than 3 inches, you can either undergo surgery to fix the problems or use a heel insert that goes in your shoe. If you don't use either option, you have to learn how to work around your leg length discrepancy during a workout. Unfortunately, no amount of stretching will make your legs even.
Decreasing Injury Risk
You're at a greater risk for injury with different leg lengths because one leg is always doing more work than the other. It throws your body off balance and can mess up your ankles, knees, hips and back.
With both legs on the ground, your weight is tilted toward the side with the shorter leg, putting pressure on the knee, hip and lower back on that side. To work around that, you need to stretch one leg at a time. If you stretch both legs, you'll end up favoring one over the other. Avoid developing lopsided legs by stretching each individually.
Work on each hamstring, one at a time, with this stretch designed for hurdlers.
How to: Sit on the ground with your legs straight in front of you. Bend one leg and press the bottom of that foot against the inside of your other knee. Reach both hands toward the straight leg and lean toward it with your upper body. Hold that stretch for 30 seconds, and then switch legs.
Side-Lying Quad Stretch
By taking the weight off your legs in this stretch, you can focus on the quadriceps muscle without worry about balancing.
Read More: Lie down on your side on the ground. Make sure your body is in a straight line and your legs are stacked on top of each other with your knees straight. Bend your top knee and bring your foot towards your butt.
Grab the front of your shin and pull the foot in with your arm. To increase the stretch, bring your knee back behind your body. Hold for 30 seconds, and then flip over and stretch the other quad.
Wall Calf Stretch
This stretch focuses on the gastrocnemius and soleus, the two muscles that make up your calf.
How to: Stand in front of a wall, about a foot away. Place both hands on the wall with your arms straight. Stagger your feet so that the heel of your front foot is in line with the toes of your back foot.
Keep the heel of your back foot down and bend your knee, putting your weight on the back leg. You should feel the stretch in the calf of your back leg. Drive your knee toward the wall to increase the stretch. Stretch each leg for 30 seconds.
Kneeling Adductor Stretch
Keep your adductors — the muscles on the inside of your thigh — loose with this stretch.
How to: Start on the ground on your hands and knees. Kick one leg out to the side with your knee straight. Plant the foot flat with your toes pointing forward. Keep your weight on the knee of the bent leg.
Rock your butt back toward the foot of the bent leg, keeping the leg to the side straight. If you can comfortably rock your butt all the way back, reach toward the straight leg with the arm of the same side.
Your quadratus lumborum, which are muscles on either side of your lower back, become uneven when you have one leg longer than the other. That's because your hips tilt to one side and it changes the length of your lower back. Even out your quadratus lumborum with this yoga stretch.
How to: Kneel on the ground. Sit your butt on your heels with the tops of your feet flat on the ground. You can put a foam roller between your calves and butt if that's an uncomfortable position.
Keep your butt back and reach your arms forward, folding over with your upper body. Reach your arms as far forward as possible with your elbows straight. Lower your forehead toward the ground and allow your lower back to round, stretching your quadratus lumborum muscles.
- San Diego Running & Sports Injury Clinic: What is Leg Length Discrepancy?
- Runners Connect: Will Treating a Leg Length Discrepancy With a Heel Lift Keep You Healthy?
- Physiopedia: Leg Length Discrepancy
- King William Chiropractic: Stretching the Quadratus Lumborum
- Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children: Limb length difference and limb lengthening