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HomeLimb/Eye Dominance

Limb Dominance discussion

Page 6


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 footedness)

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 dominance? 

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 down-field.
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 step.

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 that.

But then again, I don't know anything :)

Carl Payne

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 it.
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, and "shielding."
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:
Dominant push-off
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 out.

(Jeff Rychwa via email Jan 3/2004)


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