Welcome to the Podiatry Arena forums

You are currently viewing our podiatry forum as a guest which gives you limited access to view all podiatry discussions and access our other features. By joining our free global community of Podiatrists and other interested foot health care professionals you will have access to post podiatry topics (answer and ask questions), communicate privately with other members, upload content, view attachments, receive a weekly email update of new discussions, access other special features. Registered users do not get displayed the advertisements in posted messages. Registration is fast, simple and absolutely free so please, join our global Podiatry community today!

  1. Everything that you are ever going to want to know about running shoes: Running Shoes Boot Camp Online, for taking it to the next level? See here for more.
    Dismiss Notice
  2. Have you considered the Critical Thinking and Skeptical Boot Camp, for taking it to the next level? See here for more.
    Dismiss Notice
  3. Have you considered the Clinical Biomechanics Boot Camp Online, for taking it to the next level? See here for more.
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Have you considered the Clinical Biomechanics Boot Camp Online, for taking it to the next level? See here for more.
Dismiss Notice
Have you liked us on Facebook to get our updates? Please do. Click here for our Facebook page.
Dismiss Notice
Do you get the weekly newsletter that Podiatry Arena sends out to update everybody? If not, click here to organise this.

Drive leg

Discussion in 'Biomechanics, Sports and Foot orthoses' started by Simon Spooner, Feb 2, 2006.


  1. Members do not see these Ads. Sign Up.
    For the past twelve months I have been working closely with my local running store. They are very knowledgeable (all staff being experienced marathon runners) and have been helpful in my education. One of the things they talk about is the "drive leg"; that is they consider that power is mainly provided by one leg, viz the drive leg and that the other leg is, in the main, "along for the ride". They equate this with the dominant side i.e. the persons "handedness". Given the number of discussion we've had in the past on the Jiscmail forum re: pushing and pulling, & the contralateral power generation described by spinal engine theory, I wondered if anyone else was familiar with this concept and invite your views. I know Kevin is an experienced runner who sometimes goes into hallucinogenic states whilst participating in this activity (its was a pig! ;)) Anyone else?
  2. I would say that the running store sales people you are dealing with, Simon, are wrong unless they qualified their ideas by proposing that there may be slight differences in the kinetics of the two legs during running. However, in well-trained and efficient runners, there is minimal asymmetry in kinetics and kinematics between the two lower limbs in running. By the way, it wasn't a pig after all. ;)
  3. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    Kevin's right --- symmetry is more apparent in elite vs non-elite runners
  4. Given that the majority of runners aren't elite athletes, we can only deduce from your statement above that the majority of runners do show asymmetry in the lower limb kinetics/ kinematics and thus the drive leg theory may well be correct in this majority? Do we see greater joint moments in the dominant side or contra-dominant side in such individuals?
  5. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    Sort of --- i do recall a study that did look at symmetry in elite vs non-elite and there was less symmetry in the non-elite group .. if I recall correctly, they did not call it asymetrical, but 'less symetrical'.

    Dominant vs non-dominant side is an interesting debate and I looked into the literature on this a while back. It obvious which is the dominant hand -- which hand do you prefer to write with? BUT (and this surprised me) there is far from being a consensus in the literature on how to determine the dominant leg. Is it the leg you prefer to kick a ball with or is it the leg you balance on when you kick a ball? ... for the purposes of our study, I stayed away from the dominant/non-dominant issue and uses 'limb they prefer to kick a ball with" .... did not matter anyway, as we found nothing.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 2, 2006
  6. markjohconley

    markjohconley Well-Known Member

    dominant leg

    when kicking a ball the stance leg is the non-dominant.......same as pushing off riding a bicycle the push-off leg (the one on the pedal not on the ground) is the dominant.........so says my p/t mate
  7. Beginning runners will have all sorts of odd gait patterns due to mechanical asymmetries and a lack of central nervous system coordination. As the mileage base increases, so does central nervous system coordination improve. The more mechanically efficient runners will generally continue to improve in efficiency and the mechanically inefficient runners will generally quit due to injury. This happens a lot in children so that the high schoolers that are on the cross-country team or soccer team are generally those individuals with skeletal alignment that will minimize injury risk and improve running efficiency and speed.

    If we are talking about experienced marathon runners (not elite marathoners that run under 2:15), then in these individuals the gait symmetry is fairly good. The idea of a dominant or drive limb is not what I have seen or experienced myself in over 30 years of competitive running and have not seen this anywhere in the scientific literature on running. However, in beginners, especially those with widely asymmetrical skeletal structure or muscle stength, the idea of a dominant limb may be something that is fairly substantial. However, I don't call these people runners....they are joggers. Sorry, it is hard for me to not be a running snob considering my long history of long distance running competition.

    However, I do enjoy discussing the biomechanics of running for a change.
  8. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    If you delve into the dominance/non-dominant literature, there appears to be no consensus on which limb is "dominant" ... I originally assumed it to be the one that a ball is kicked with.
  9. Scorpio622

    Scorpio622 Active Member

    While multi-tasking I frequently type on the computer with my foot (as I am doing now). I always use my right foot, which is the same foot that I kick a ball, push off on a bike with, and suture lacerations as I fill out the billing slip with my hands. When I try to type withh my leeft fot(as I amn doingh nows)( imake manyh mistkes,
  10. DaFlip

    DaFlip Active Member

    What are you thoughts on there being just as much structural/skeletal asymmetry in elite athletes but much better strength patterns which prevent fatigue leading to less observable imbalances?
    This then leads to the question on better CNS control, not just co-ordination, but less fatigue at CNS level? Greater efficiency from specific training, better fuel utilisation, better absorption rates of fuel, better fluid/nutrient replacement through race? This combined with their more efficient physiological variables which we can see in testing such as power output vs thresholds etc result in less observable gait asymmetry than a 3.5 hour marathon runner.

    I also think the terminology used initially in this discussion makes things sound grossly imbalanced. Dominant leg, along for the free ride etc. When in reality there is probably not that much visible difference but a greater perceptual ability in an elite level athlete than someone who is just aiming to breath hard enough to maintain their run. Let alone worry about their symmetry and which side feels more efficient or dominant.

    DaFlip :mad:
  11. Before I matriculated to podiatry school, I took all the undergraduate and a few graduate courses in exercise physiology at UC Davis, thinking that this may be a eventual career path for me. I chose podiatry instead.

    My observations and studies in exercise physiology and biomechanics has led me to the conclusion that elite athletes have not only better genetic skeletal structure and muscle type for their specific sport, but also a personality type that allows them to endure the rigors of incessant training and competitive athletics.

    Fatigue is still hard to quantify and the researchers still don't know as much about it from a cellular level as they would like to. However, in general, the central nervous system (CNS) will develop improved coordination with the repetetive accomplishments of the same activity. Elite athletes also have a high level of CNS coordination for their specific sport. In endurance athletes, there are many physiological adaptations that may affect performance with increased training and fitness such as a higher maximal oxygen uptake, higher lactate threshold, improved extraction of oxygen from atmosphere, higher density of mitochondria in cells, more efficient utilization of fat as energy source, increased tendon, bone and muscle strength, increased blood volume, increased cardiac output, increased lean body mass, etc.

    From my experiences and observations of competing against sub-elite and elite athletes in college,there is insignificant gait asymmetry in these individuals during running. They are almost all very symmetrical in their smoothness of gait with their strides seeming to be "effortless" to the casual observer. Of course, you have exceptions such as the contorted, grimacing style of Emil Zatopek, but that is not the norm in elite runners.

    Certainly becoming an elite runner may be a strength issue but is more likely a combination of muscle strength, muscle endurance, skeletal structure and CNS coordination, to name a few parameters. It is a fascinating subject and has been researched with great intensity over the past 30 or more years. Most podiatrists have very little knowledge of this subject which I think is a shame since it is very important for recommending proper training advice for athletic patients.

    I agree. It's hard for me to imagine a group of seasoned and intelligent marathon runners discussing "dominant legs" or "leg is along for a free ride", unless they were just guessing about something they read about in a running magazine. Of course, there is so much misinformation about shoes and training styles in many running shoe stores that I suppose anything is possible.
  12. Steve The Footman

    Steve The Footman Active Member

    There was an asymmetry study published last year that looked at the shape of athletes earlobes and their performance. The asymmetry of the earlobes was supposed to reflect a general increased asymmetry in their body. This asymmetry would then contribute to greater imbalance and reduced efficiency and so lower performance. I believe they proved statistical relevance.

    As an owner of a running store, coach and past sub-elite athlete I have never heard of the "drive leg" and would be very surprised if it existed in greater than 1% of the population to any significant extent. Force plate studies would have easily identified this in the past and runners footwear would have significantly different wear patterns. As this only occurs in a minority of patients I would say that it reflects a pathomechanical situation that needs gait modification and not a general finding.

    When doing a 'non-treadmill' video gait analysis you can measure the number of frames per step as well as the distance per step and see if there is a difference. That along with a comparison of the joint ROM of each leg will identify if asymmetry exists between legs.

    I do not think that the dominant 'kicking foot' analogy is relevant as it relates more to coordination then power and while a runner may prefer to step up a curb with a particular foot, on the flat the power would be similar.

    Finally Kevin, whether a runner or jogger is a state of mind separate from speed or experience.
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2006
  13. If you would like to believe this, Steve, then you have a right to your own opinion. However, as far as I'm concerned, someone who, in their mind, thinks they are a runner by doing 12 minute miles is still a jogger to me (and also is a jogger to the vast majority of competetive runners that I have associated with over the past 30+ years). This is no different from all the people competing on "American Idol" who think they can sing when, instead, their voice sounds to me like fingernails being scratched on a blackboard. It's all a matter of self-perception versus objectivity......which ever one you prefer to believe is real is totally up to you.

    Definition: Jog: to run at a leisurely, slow pace, esp. as an outdoor exercise.
    (Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, Random House Value Publishing, Inc, 2001).
  14. Steve The Footman

    Steve The Footman Active Member

    Lets see 12 / 1.6 = 7.5 min/km x 42.2 =5:16 marathon :eek:

    Can not argue with the logic of that. I forgot that in the U.S. the average time for a marathon is almost 4:30. In Australia we would not get 10% slower than that. When a normal person can walk at the pace someone else runs then perhaps jogging is a more appropriate term.

    However my contention of mindset being important is still valid. Some people can run a 60 minute 10km with little training and see themselves as 'joggers' while other less talented runners train hard with speedwork and consistency and run the same time but consider themselves 'runners'.

    Sorry about the hijack everyone. I have a tape measure that I use to compare calf circumference if there is an obvious difference visually. In these patients you would expect that asyymetrical calf hypertrophy would be a result of asymmetrical workload.
  15. markjohconley

    markjohconley Well-Known Member

    came across this article....Journal of Athletic Training 2005;40(3):203–206........in which "Conclusions: Hip-abduction strength differences exist between the dominant and nondominant legs..............Side-to-side strength imbalances exist between the hip abductors of asymptomatic healthy individuals."
    .............also anecdotal reports, my favourite is, apparently if ask blindfolded participant, who is stood under goalposts at one end of a field and is aligned facing the other end, to walk to that other end of the field, most will traverse a curved path towards their non-dominant leg side, a phenomenon well known to trackers (apparently most lost people follow a anti-clockwise curved path)... i thought it was interesting....not sure how relevant it is though
  16. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    I was just doing a lit search for something else and came across this ref:
    Notice they use prefered/non-prefered kicking leg as opposed to dominant/non-dominant.
  17. markjohconley

    markjohconley Well-Known Member

    dominance in bipedal tasks

    in a brief PubMed search in some of the literature it claims that in bipedal "asymmetrical" tasks eg. kick a ball, where there is a stabilising task and a mobilising task (not bipedal "symmetrical" tasks eg. what elite athletes do) there is a "dominant leg FOR STABILISATION and a dominant leg FOR MOBILISATION"..........in a few articles the term "footedness" was used for the "preferred leg".........as craig P mentions the neuro biologists/psychologists seem reluctant to assign "dominance" without further study, mark c
  18. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.

    I see this new study talks about the 'preferred' leg rather than the 'dominant leg:

    Segmental dynamics of soccer instep kicking with the preferred and non-preferred leg.
    J Sports Sci. 2006 May;24(5):529-41
  19. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.

    Evaluation of some tasks used for specifying handedness and footedness.
    Percept Mot Skills. 2006 Feb;102(1):163-4
  20. admin

    admin Administrator Staff Member

    I know this is a very old thread ... but came across the new abstract below and it reminded me of this thread. Apparently limb dominance is an issue for birds as well:
    Foot preferences during resting in wildfowl and waders.
    Laterality. 2007 Mar;12(2):191-7
    How do they get funding for this sort of research when clinical podiatric research (which actually can help people get better) struggles?
  21. moe

    moe Active Member

    Driving leg and other leg along for the ride, sounds to me if that was the case running could be undertaken with only the one leg, I think that's called hopping?
    For what it's worth I undertook gymnastics at an elite level and soccer as did my sister, everytime any tumbling, cartwheel etc the preferred leg was the lead leg this was also our kicking leg in soccer.
  22. efuller

    efuller MVP

    I can see it now. A guy in a camp chair with a foot rest and a drink in his drink holder and a pair of binoculras sitting at the edge of a lake at sunset....

    Craig, Perhaps you should submit your research proposals to the Audobon society. The guy who did the bird research probably got plantar fasciitis walking to the lake carrying his chair, clipboard and binoculars. ;)

    The answer to the drive leg issue can be solved by using inverse dynamics and looking at the joint power (angular velocity x joint moment). You still need a source of energy to make the back leg become the front leg regardless if it is dominent or not.


  23. David Smith

    David Smith Well-Known Member


    Just to follow on from that thought can one leg be more dominant than the other? If one leg is weak then it cannot produce enough power to drive the contralateral side as far forward as the strong leg can. Therefore there might be a short stride length on the strong side. In which case if there is asymmetry then the weak side must have a long stride therfore it must be stronger in power absorption?? Therefore one leg is a strong power producer and the other a strong power retarder. EH! :confused:

    I have only thought about that for five minutes so it may be rediculous but I thought I would throw it in the ring.

    Cheers Dave
  24. efuller

    efuller MVP

    Walking is making the back leg become the front leg repetedly. Moving a leg takes energy. Energy input can come from hip pull or ankle push. If a leg is weak there will be more hip pull. There is an equal and opposite reaction at the initiation of swing phase with hip pull. The trunk pulls the leg forward and leg pulls the trunk back. Or in terms of energy the trunk looses kinetic energy to the leg at the initiation of swing and the energy is returned at the completion of swing phase.

    Certainly asymmetry is possible. One leg can have more ankle push than the other. You can choose to have a silly walk. (who holds the position of silly walks now?:) )


  25. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.

    Leg kinematics and kinetics in landing from a single-leg hop for distance. A comparison between dominant and non-dominant leg
    J.J. van der Harsta, A. Gokelerb, A.L. Hofab
    Clinical Biomechanics (Article in Press)
  26. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.

    Leg preference and interlateral performance asymmetry in soccer player children.
    Teixeira MC, Teixeira LA.
    Dev Psychobiol. 2008 Aug 7. [Epub ahead of print]

Share This Page