April/02 - Jan/04
The following email was sent to me (see below), after the inquirer read the
archive of the Leg Dominance discussion on this website....
The sender of the email isn't on this list, so I offered to post their inquiry
on this list in case someone might have some answers for them.
I will compile any answers that come up and forward them on to her.
I am a track coach and I am trying to work with my kids on their starts. I read
that you should toe the line with your non-dominant leg, so that your first step
is with your dominant leg. I had the kids determine their
dominant leg by kicking a soccer ball, but from what I read in your discussion
on leg dominance, I only found that whether they were right or left footed, not
their leg dominance. Right? (Limb dominance is not always the same as
Another coach stood behind the kids and pushed
them slightly until they took a step. The foot they break the fall with should
be their dominant leg. I didn't read anything in your discussion about this
test. Is this test legit??
Also the heels, you'll notice, hit at different
angles, one is shallower than the other. One also hits harder and is more worn,
even if slightly. I looked at several of the kid's shoes and noticed on one kid
his left heel
was definitely more worn than his right. It was angled so that the most wear was
on the outside of his left foot. Does this mean that he is left legged or that
his left leg is leaning, trying to overcompensate for his right leg
Thanks for any help you can give me.
The second test is the norm for determining leg dominance. The
simplest is usually the best.
As for the heel wear, if he is teaching "starts" then
he is teaching sprinting. Your heels don't touch the ground when you sprint so
the wear could come from walking. He should try to observe it.
As for which leg to use out of the blocks it is up to the
runner. I won many, many races with an incredibly fast start using my strong leg
as the propeller out of the blocks. It just also happened that my right
leegedness was also my strongest. But then I started with the right leg toeing
the line and lead with that same leg when running the hurdles. It is totally up
to the runner and works best for them. That is part of coaching, seeing how the
person uses their body and then figuring out to get the most out of it. Yes
sometimes you have to correct something that is way wrong but like they say...if
it ain't broke don't fix it. Just give it a tweek. You might also pass on that
the best coach sometimes is a video tape. Then you can show the kids what they
are doing. I wish them the best.
The test I heard about for leg dominance was to orient them on a
field(like the middle of the end zone of a football field),
blindfold them and have them walk in what they believe is a
straight line. The dominant leg will take slightly longer strides,
and so they'll turn to the opposite side. Apparently, most people
walk out of a football field well before the opposite end zone. I'm
right leg dominant and turn to the left, I found out in a Coyote
Tracks blindfold walk to a drum exercise.
As for the part about the worn shoes, ask an orthopedist --
that's what they specialize in. I know that many people have one
leg shorter thanthe other, which causes asymmetric effects. And I
believe leg and foot physiology differs from person to
person, and I'm sure that injuries to other parts of the body
(especially the back) can effect the stance. According to TBJ, over
large thighs cause people to toe out -- what effect do you think
that has on shoe wear?
What I remember is that the dominant leg would
stay on the ground longer so in fact the other leg would take the longer stride.
Have I remembered wrong?
Three methods of determining left/right dominance:
1) Measure accurately the left and right bare foot tracks; the largest track is
the dominant side. However, it is exceedingly unlikely that the track coach will
discern the edge or floor cut of the true track to enable sufficient accuracy,
so I guess this is a stupid suggestion in this context.
2) Allow the subject to walk normally (whatever that might be) and measure
the overall left and overall right stride. The shortest of the two measurements
is the dominant side.
3) Blindfold them and have them walk toward a distant object... they will
circle toward their dominant side.
And remember that the dominant side may not agree with 'handedness'.
There are a few tests for leg dominance,
including measuring the stride. However, the football field test is the one I
find easiest for human subjects. You use the field because it is large and safe
(i.e. no trees, holes, or other obstacles). The idea is to blindfold the student
under one goal post. Point them down field and tell them to walk to the other
end zone. Since they can not see, they will be unable to correct for dominance.
So, the dominant leg, which can support more weight, will remain on the ground
longer than the non-dominant leg (thus, the non-dominant leg takes a longer
stride). And, just like turning a bulldozer, they will veer toward their
DOMINANT side and walk off the football field, usually before the 50-yard line.
If you will recall, this is the reason people who are lost walk in circles -
unless of course, they pick an object on the horizon and "aim" toward
it. By "aiming" you correct for dominance. We all do it. That's why we
can walk in a straight line or to an object. This is a fun exercise, even if you
are not working with a track team. I'll bet you can't get more than 60 yards
Even "correcting" for dominance, while blindfolded is very difficult.
I found myself overcompensating. Now, if we add IV and work within the SW....but
that's a conversation for the Philosophy group....
Some basic concepts on this...
Shoe wear- the heel with more wear is usually the weaker leg, since the
dominant leg carries the body on a longer step- so the weak leg is the one
landing at the end of that step, hence more wear. being worn more on the outside
of the heel is usually pronation but is sometimes because the person plants the
outside of the heel first, as in a foxwalk (but with heel leading, not ball of
the foot- I do this myself, some shoes more than others because it is a quieter
way to walk in "clompy" boots)...anyway, pronation is often caused by
tight hamstrings, which shows up more on the leg extending during the longer
The exercises/experiments to test dominance may work, but can be pretty
subjective. for instance, when pushing someone from behind, would it be their
dominant leg going out to catch them or their dominant leg staying put to
support them during that step?
Just my 2 cents.....
>>The foot they break the fall with should be their dominant leg.
I am a very right leg dominant person, and I have found that when pushed,
falling or otherwise thrown off balance, I tend to break the fall with my left
leg forward. Unless of course the situation dictates otherwise, as in a terrain
factor or some other reason.
>> I looked at several of the kid's shoes and noticed on one kid his
left heel was definitely more worn than his right.
Even if a person is walking on rough asphalt most of the time, I would be
inclined to think that any really big difference in the wear on a shoe would be
because of either an irregularity in the person (like a constant limp or
something) or a situational influence such as someone who is pivoting on the
same foot, or otherwise using one leg more because of their job tasks or some
repetitive motion in their life.
Also I would think that edge wear on a shoe would be highly affected by the
pitch that a person walks with. And I know several people that have much more
pitch on one side than the other.
One more thing is that the shoe wear on the heel of the dominant side caused
by normal walking would tend to be less than the heel wear on the non-dominant
side. When we are walking normaly, we take shorter steps with our dominant leg,
making the non-dominant leg the one that is hitting the ground at more of an
angle. I expect more wear in the toe/ball of the dominant side, as this leg is
the one we usualy pivot and turn on. It is also the leg that we tend to rely on
for acceleration. Stopping is something that could cause more heel wear on the
dominant side, however stopping at slow speeds (which is much
more common) would put stress on the ball of the foot. Only at higher speeds,
when a stronger angle is needed to stop, would the heel be stressed the most.
And as was pointed out in the standard, stopping or slowing only accounts for a
very small percentage of the pressure against the wall PR's :) and I will add
that higher speed stopping would only account for a very small percentage of
But then again, I don't know anything :)
I like the questions and I wish I had a solid answer for you.
The first question I have is the difference between foot dominance and limb
dominance... Is there a difference? What brought you to that conclusion? I
haven't seen the footedness discussions.. can some one post them to this list?
Here some additional thoughts from when I was studying massage. We got
involved in looking as shoes to determine spine alignment.
The short answer is that looking at wear patterns on shoes is not a simple
task. And is often not related to foot dominance. For a start ... to look for
the 'line of weight' on peoples shoes. It is the line you would draw from the
front wear part of the show to the back wear part of the show. Is tied to a lot
of factor such as injury to the toes, gait (particularly tight hips/ poor knee
articulation) E.g. The 'line of weight' on my right foot is a line from the ball
of my big
toe to the middle of the heel.
The way I have determine dominance was to close my eyes and walk/ run across
and open football field. I tended to turn toward the weaker side. It seems to
average out a lot of factors over the 50-75 steps I take before it becomes
obvious which leg I tend to favor. Kicking, falling and catching yourself, and
stepping forward to pick something up all indicators of leg dominance. For a
similar view here is a site with a little questionnaire...
My favorite is this one: Take off your shoes, run across your hardwood/tile
floor and slide on your socks. You'll always put the same forward. In surfing
this is called regular (left foot forward) and goofy foot (right foot forward).
This due to the predominance of left foot forward stance.
Another good one is to stand with your feet together and have someone push
you (slowly and evenly) from behind until you have to take a step.
I just read the discussion on leg dominance and would like to add something to
My right side is dominant: leg, eye and arm. In a book on forensic
analysis I learned that the dominant side long bones ( thigh, upper arms) are
several millimeters longer than the subordinate side. As one would
expect from this fact, when I made tracks walking, then examined them, I
found that my right leg steps were longer than the left by almost an inch!
In doing the football eye-closed test, I drifted to the left
(subordinate side), not the right! This strongly suggests that I would
circle to the left if lost, not to the dominant side! And lastly, when
I had pain in my left heel the tendency was to get off that foot quickly making
the right step (normally longer) shorter. This all causes me to doubt the
correctness of many of the opinions on the forum.
(from Eugene via email Oct 16, 2002)
Consider that our bodies are not simply mechanical units that function
without the presence of mind. In other words, the most common effect of leg- or
stride-dominance will lead a LOST person to their dominant side (which I have
also seen proven with other wildlife) because of a physical factor, i.e., the
dominant leg pushing off slightly harder than the non; and because of a
psychological or subconscious element, i.e., no particular frame of reference,
A blindfolded person, especially one who knows the "goal" of the blindfold walk
test, as was pointed out in the discussion, has a subconscious frame of
reference. The walk needs to be unbiased, uninfluenced in order to be true.
On the other end of the spectrum is a biased or severely influenced walk. When
facing danger, if someone were to attack you for example, unless you have
trained your body to a different response, you shield yourself. It is natural
for the non-dominant hand and foot to go forward, the dominant side back, and
you face the danger head-on, but guarding yourself with the non-dominant side.
(Keep in mind that when attacking, some people attack with the dominant side
forward.) Think about the psychology of a lost person. Fear, panic, even if
subtle, have an influence on gait. The pace quickens, the eyes grasp for a
familiar landmark, the heartbeat picks-up. It is Autonomic fight or flight.
The dominant side pushes the non-dominant forward, guarding, facing the fear
head-on. The lost person circles to the dominant side.
I see three major influences in line of travel:
Frame of reference
Obviously, physical influences such as leg length, injury, carrying an object,
will cause alterations. Regardless, there are always going to be exceptions to
the "rules," and it is our task to look that much more deeply and figure it all
(Jeff Rychwa via email Jan 3/2004)