Cole's Cure:
Universal Pelvic Tilt and Its Effect on All of Us

By Chris Kostman

Originally published in City Sports, November 1992; Triathlete, February 1995; ULTRA Cycling, Spring 1995.

Header: Refusing to be a cripple for the rest of his life, Lee Cole's self-diagnosis led to the "3/32 Solution."

When doctors told near-cripple Lee Cole to face the reality of a permanently painful and nearly immobile life, Lee refused to take it in stride and studied his stride instead. The armchair scientist / anthropologist, and owner of Skates on Haight in San Francisco, followed his hunches and came away a new, able-bodied man. Here's his fascinating story:

Lee grew up seemingly fit, participating in bicycle races and leading an active life, but by age 20 his body had begun to change dramatically: his left leg slowly atrophied and weakened to the point that Lee was in constant pain and needed a cane just to hobble short distances. As the condition spread to his lower back, Lee sought medical help and tried his best to get on with his life in spite of the disability. Wisely, he vowed to never give up hope that a full recovery was possible.

At age 23, Lee bought a local skate shop and began to turn it into the retail and mail order empire known as Skates on Haight. While Lee and his company did a booming business in skates and skateboards (and later in-line skates and snowboards), Lee began working out as best he could and sought further professional help to cure his ailment.

Over the ensuing years every conceivable expert was consulted: general practioners, podiatrists, massage therapists, chiropractors, rolfers, even New Age spiritualists, all to no avail. But Cole wasn't about to give up; instead, he began to follow his hunches.

"Skates on Haight was the perfect laboratory for me: I could sit in one spot and run the store, plus I could observe human movement all day long as customers walked or skated through the front door," tells Cole. He also added 300 situps to his daily weight lifting and work out regimen. Then one day the proverbial light bulb came on in his head, and in his leg, so to speak. In 1986, Cole was hobbling through a park on Thanksgiving day when he felt his left leg actually lift. Through the power of positive thinking, daily and unrelenting exercise, and who knows what else, Lee found some life in the leg that had been withered and useless for the past thirteen years. Cole believes that his relentless working out, and the situps especially, helped to bring a spark of energy to the nerves that controlled his left leg.

While Lee found some life in his leg, he also brought a theory to life about the very root of his problem. "I saw a little bit of my problem in almost everybody I observed. I began to realize that my condition was only a more extreme version of what everyone else was dealing with. This universal condition is functional leg length discrepancy caused by the pelvis of almost every one of us being tipped higher on the right." Careful research and observation brought Cole to the very origins of modern man himself through evolution. You see, a functionally longer left leg allows a right-handed person to use the left leg as a brace for throwing objects (as in hunting before and in football today) and when using tools and weapons. But while a functionally longer left leg is essentially universal, right-handedness is not, so left-handed people get the short end of the stick (or leg, as it were) in this facet of evolution. (Not suprisinlgy, Cole is left-handed.) More importantly, this functional leg length discrepancy is out of place in the modern world with its symetrical walking surfaces and footwear and other "amenities." Additionally, leg length discrepancy increases with the years and appears to be the cause of grossly debilitating gait, posture, and comfort as people age.

"I didn't want to have to do 300 situps and take nine Excedrins every day for the rest of my life, so I followed my hunches yet again," continues Cole. This hunch suggested that a lift added to the base of his right sole would fix the problem. With lifts ranging from 1/4" to 1 and 1/4" on his right sole, Lee taught himself to walk again at age 35. Where modern medicine had failed him, plain old intuition paid off and Lee was soon on the road to recovery. After two years of walking, then running, and finally cycling with the help of a simple 3/8" sole lift, Cole even donned a pair of the in-line skates that he was selling every day at Skates on Haight. Of course Lee's right skate also featured the full-sole lift and eventually he began selling the riser accessory under the name "3/32 Solution."

And the rest, as they say, is history: Now 42, Lee competes in in-line skating races of up to 85 miles in length or more and has teamed up with professional biomechanics researchers, professors, and anthropologists to continue the ground-breaking research. Heller Shoes, designed by fashion designer Michael Heller, has recently released a line of dress, casual, and walking shoes with the 3/32 Solution incorporated into the design. A golfing shoe company will soon follow suit.

Within two years, Lee and others fully expect mainstream shoe companies to produce and market shoes of all types and styles with soles of unequal height. Of course Cole has applied for the patent for products of this type, leading us to the moral of this fascinating story, Lee's mottos: "Never give up hope, follow your hunches, question authority, and always make the most of a bad situation." Lee Cole is walking and skating proof that these are excellent mottos to follow.

The Body According to Cole

  1. Almost all people have legs and arms of equal length.
  2. Most people's right hip is tilted higher than their left hip.
  3. Pelvic tilt makes the right leg functionally shorter than the left leg.
  4. Pelvic tilt enables a right-handed person to use their left leg as a brace (guide) when using tools or throwing objects.
  5. A right-handed person's upper body always rotates counter-clockwise over the functionally longer left leg, minimizing functional leg length discrepancy.
  6. A left-handed person's upper body always rotates clockwise over the functionally shorter right leg, exaggerating functional leg length discrepancy.
  7. Pelvic tilt increases with age and injury.
  8. Solution: For right-handed people, shoes should be commercially manufactured with a minimum 3/32" thicker right sole than left sole to equalize stride. If this were done, posture, strength, and balance for sports and daily activities would improve. Elderly people or left-handed people of any age may require more life (up to 1/4" thicker right sole.)

For information on the "3/32 Solution," contact Skates On Haight

For the article I wrote about Lee and his theory for Walking Magazine, click here.