External Shoe Lift to Correct for a Leg Length Discrepancy

Correcting a Leg Length Discrepancy

Correcting a Leg Length Discrepancy or LLD is needed when there is a significant difference between the lengths of limbs. It may be as much as several centimeters or inches, and it’s likely most noticeable in legs. For this difference some people have great success getting a custom shoe lift or a custom heel lift, other opt for bone-shortening or lengthening surgery.

A person with an LLD may be able to compensate for the differences in their limbs. However, over time, LLD can lead to side effects and complications, like pain and difficulty walking or running.

How are leg length discrepancies diagnosed?

A difference in a leg length may first become noticeable to parents as a child begins to walk. A routine screening at school for scoliosis, which is a curvature of the spine, may also include a discrepancy in leg length diagnosis.

In most cases a doctor will conduct a physical exam that involves observing the way a person walks so he/she can help determine the best way of correcting a leg length discrepancy. A person may compensate for a difference in leg length by walking on the toes of their shorter leg or bending the knee of their longer leg.

The doctor may measure the difference between legs by placing wooden blocks under the shorter leg until both hips are level. Imaging studies like an X-Ray or CT scan may also be used to measure the length and density of the leg bones.

Thinking of surgery?

There are two types of surgery that may be used to reduce or lengthen a leg bone correcting a leg length discrepancy. The type of your surgeon may recommend depends on your age and the outcome you’re looking to reach.

1. Bone-shortening surgeries are designed to reduce the differences in limb lengths. Surgeries on leg bones are most common. In rare instances, surgery may be performed on arms that are a significantly different length.

2. Bone-lengthening surgeries can be used to add length to a shorter bone. This also helps eliminate uneven limb lengths, but it won’t reduce overall height.

What are the side effects or risks of these procedures?

Surgeries are never without risk. With an epiphysiodesis or Bone-lengthening, potential side effects or complications include:

  • infection

  • bleeding

  • deformity of bone growth

  • continued growth of bones

  • over or under correction that doesn’t eliminate the difference

Potential risks or side effects of bone-shortening surgery include:

  • bones that heal out of alignment or that fail to properly join during healing

  • infection

  • bleeding

  • bones that fail to properly join during healing an over or under correction

  • pain

  • loss of function

What are the costs?

Both leg shorting and lengthening procedures for correcting a leg length discrepancy are likely to cost several tens of thousands of dollars. Both will require a hospital stay, but a bone-shortening surgery may require an even longer stay. This increases the total cost of the procedure.

Insurance may cover the cost of either procedure, especially if your doctor determines the bone length differences is causing significant impairment.

However, it’s advisable that you call your health insurance company to verify coverage before undertaking the procedure, so you don’t have any surprise bills.

Shoe lifts very in price from $30 to $200+ depending on height of the required lift and whether it is internal or external.


It is not uncommon for a person to have slight differences in the length of their arms or legs. The greater the differences the greater the effect on your back, knee and joints.

If you think that you have LLD and are looking into options of correcting a leg length discrepancy that is causing you pain or affecting your day-to-day activities, you should consult your doctor. Your doctor can help you begin the process to understand your options on Internal Heel Lift or External Custom Shoe Lifts.