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Leg-length to height ratio and attractiveness

Swami et al. showed line drawings of men and women that varied the length of the legs relative to height, and had the figures rated for appeal by men and women.(1, pdf)

Men and women judged similarly.  For a given height, the judges preferred longer legs in women and shorter legs in men.

Leg-to-body ratio and attractiveness.

Fig. 1. Higher leg-body ratios (relatively longer legs) were preferred in women and lower ones in men.

For the same height, women tend to have longer legs.  Hence this study reported a preference for exaggerated sexual dimorphism.

When women wear high heels, they make their legs appear relatively longer.  High heels are not good for posture, but again, patriarchy cannot be blamed for this.  Women are doing it to make themselves appear more feminine and appealing.   

The paper has some shortcomings:

In the line drawings, the authors achieved longer legs by stretching the legs in the photo editor, making them thinner in the process, but thinner legs will count against the appeal of men.  So it is possible that a better study will show a similar find, but not that the shortest legs shown in the line drawings are optimally preferred in men.

The authors cited some literature to argue that men most strongly prefer women with average height, but the correct interpretation is that over a very broad height range, men do not really care how tall a woman is.  As one approaches the extremes of height, it becomes more difficult for women to find men, and hence women closer to average height will be more successful with men than women who are much shorter or much taller, but this isn’t the same as an optimal preference for average height in women.


  1. Swami, V., Einon, D., and Furnham, A., The leg-to-body ratio as a human aesthetic criterion, Body Image, 3, 317 (2006).


It is also very likely, that a better study,( where stretching the legs in the photo editor would not make them thinner in the process),would show that the longest legs shown in the drawings are not preferred in women. I prefer number 13 the most, then nr.12, and then nr.14 in women, and nr.11 and 12 in men.

prefer number 12 the most nice shape for the women, then 11 and 13 are stil just fine. for the men, I prefer 10,11 and 12

Actually, I think for the same height and/or torso length men actually have longer legs. So really men have proportionally longer legs than women on average which kinda makes sense in an evolutionary perspective because men don't need that extra torso length/space for pregnacy.

Aram, can you provide any evidence that men have proportionally longer legs?

I was surprised to see proportionally shorter legs rated more attractive for men. I am a recreational bodybuilder (drug-free, so nothing like the behemoths in the magazines) and I have always considered that my shorter legs detract from my appearance. I am very broad-shouldered, which normally creates a top-heavy effect, but I have countered it with very well developed leg muscles. The unfortunate part is that even though I am generally mesomorphic, even when I am very lean, I appear much stockier ("endomorphic") than the typical mesomorph. Based on the results of this study, though, it seems I should be rejoicing. :)

I don't know how people get the idea men have longer legs than women proportionally

a) growth is estrogen fuelled (So I heard, correct me if I'm wrong), on a mutant programme, concerning the very tall they talked about amazingly tall male opera singers that had been castrated (A paradox though, if estrogen is the growth hormone then why are men taller in most cases...)
b) With girls shorter than me I've noticed more often than not their legs are equal length (Of course I haven't met that many women in the world so it's not a strong argument)
c)Women actually have short upper bodies compared to men
d)Okay these are extreme cases but look at tall men, their legs are actually shorter in ratio terms compared to average people whereas tall women have very high ratios
e) A possible answer, perhaps the women with shorter legs were less active in puberty? Boys tend to be more active than girls physically...

What does interest me is why western people have longer legs than eastern, it's very apparent (I myself am chinese and my legs were measured at 27 inches, my height is 68 inches so in comparative terms I have short legs)
Another thing I notice is for most people though our heights vary several inches standard trousers don't so much, just wondering why that is. Anyhow I know nothing and I think you need a very big sample if not population of people to justify the argument either way for leg length, plus it's no good pairing people of very different heights

Revised argument about ‘leg-length to height’ ratio and attractiveness

There has been a debate above about whether women or men have relatively longer legs. I should have thought more about this issue before posting. Aram mentioned women needing extra torso length/space for pregnancy. This sounds reasonable, and it has been shown that women’s attractiveness increases with an elongated abdominal region, but the rib cage of women is expected to be relatively smaller (including vertically shorter). So one doesn’t expect the entire torso of women to be relatively longer than in men.

Peter mentioned that growth is estrogen fueled. Actually, there are many growth factors (growth hormone, testosterone, etc.), but the estrogen estradiol has a much more powerful effect on the growth of long bones than testosterone, which comprises of both accelerating growth and promoting the fusion of the growth plates, which will ultimately stop further increase in height.

One reason why women are on average shorter than men is that they develop under higher levels of estradiol, which has a potent effect on growth plate fusion. The other reason has to do with some genes on the Y chromosome that result in male-specific growth and have no counterparts in women.

It has been my observation that in women, the lower legs are relatively shorter for a given leg length and upper legs relatively longer, but what about leg length for a given height? These issues do not make it obvious which group has relatively longer legs, but I didn’t think about all this before posting the article.

Sorokowski and Pawlowski performed a similar study, and the following is an excerpt from this study –


However, it is questionable whether women have higher LBR [leg-length to body-length ratio] than men, throwing this explanation into doubt. Many studies show either that there is no sexual dimorphism in relative leg length within many human populations (Flugel, Greil, & Sommer 1983; Martin & Saller, 1958) or that 17-year-old boys (Martorell, Malina, Castillo, Mendoza, & Pawson, 1988) and adult men (Eveleth, 1978) have relatively longer legs and shorter trunks than women. More recently, Dangour, Schilg, Hulse, & Cole (2002) have shown that 18-year-old boys from Southeast England have relatively longer legs than girls. The mean subischial leg length to stature index is 0.472 for boys and 0.465 for girls (calculated from Dangour et al.'s 2002 data). As we will demonstrate, in our own sample of Polish adults (100 men and 118 women), men have a significantly higher LBR than women (t = -2.21, p < .03).

So the finds do not suggest relatively longer legs in women. Sorokowski and Pawlowski found that the judges preferred slightly relatively longer than average legs in both men and women. They also employed the figures used by Swami et al. except that they were blackened, and still found a preference for slightly relatively longer than average legs in both men and women.

Here are details about the study –


Abstract – It has been shown that height is one of the morphological traits that influence a person's attractiveness. To date, few studies have addressed the relationship between different components of height and physical attractiveness. Here, we study how leg length influences attractiveness in men and women. Stimuli consisted of seven different pictures of a man and seven pictures of a woman in which the ratio between leg length and height was varied from the average phenotype by elongating and shortening the legs. One hundred men and 118 women were asked to assess the attractiveness of the silhouettes using a seven-point scale. We found that male and female pictures with shorter than average legs were perceived as less attractive by both sexes. Although longer legs appeared to be more attractive, this was true only for the slight (5%) leg length increase; excessively long legs decreased body attractiveness for both sexes. Because leg length conveys biological quality, we hypothesize that such preferences reflect the workings of evolved mate-selection mechanisms. Short and/or excessively long legs might indicate maladaptive biological conditions such as genetic diseases, health problems, or weak immune responses to adverse environmental factors acting during childhood and adolescence.

Sorokowski, P., and Pawlowski, B., Adaptive preferences for leg length in a potential partner, Evol Hum Behav, 29, 86 (2008).

They attempt to explain a preference for slightly longer than average legs in terms of health variables, but there also is the issue that humans have developed relatively longer legs compared to the ancestral species and hence there will be an aesthetic preference along these lines.

A study reportedly found that the longer the legs (irrespective of height) the less chance a man has of a heart attack, but actuaries think very tall men are at high risk of early death(presumably due to XYY and Marfans). Barbie has extremely long legs as do artists pin-ups(apart from Fritz Willis),GI Joes legs don't look long.

Looking at the short legged figures I get an impression of small overall size, indeed most people with short legs are of below average height so the Polish results may be due to lack of enthusiasm for short men.
Studies are often on subjects of higher than average social class which means less testosteronised on average,a high proportion of the most testosteronised men are not in colleges ect. where subjects are recuited, it is worth bearing in mind that Polish men have a rather high finger ratio.
Men having slightly short legs for the same height would be more heavily built - a masculine trait.

Hi, I'm a final year medical student, and I did a semester in paediatrics and had to read up a fair bit on growth and developement and stuff. Testosterone has the effect increasing height and increasing the leg : body ratio. This is why when a seemingly taller man and a shorter woman sit down, they height difference is diminished. Longer legs are evolutionaryly more advantageous -- you can ran faster and farther, you are better able to support your torso etc.

So why do guys like long legged girls? This must be one of the great ironies of life and physical attraction. Our genes, including those that controll sexual dimorphism as well as sexual attraction, are the results of random mutations after all. It's a wonder that they posses the order that they do, so it's not hard to imagine they must be a little non-sensical here and there.

Long leg legth in females is not the only physical attraction that's wierd in terms of having no explanation from a reproductive or sexually dimorphic angle. What about long necks and big collar bones on females? These are also attributes that are enhanced by testosterone and not oestrogen. Ever wondered why so many boys seem to have longer eyelashes than their sisters? I think this is a testosterone things as well -- you know, like facial hair.

Perhaps there are actually relevent genetic reasons as to why we find body parts attractive in the sex that does not naturaly come by them. For example, collar bones stick out more when you are thin, long necks disappear into flesh as you get older, and a healthy weight and youthfulness are relevent to the reproductive ability of females.

Can't think of a similar reason for legs though. I'm going with it's a media thing. Having grown up in subcontinental Asia for ten years, I can assure you that nobody slobbered over long legged girls. In fact, most parts of a woman were supposed to be smaller than most parts of a man, including legs. Even a long neck was considered unattractive.

Lin said "Testosterone has the effect(of) .. increasing the leg :body ratio "
I'm interested in a reference for this and whether it would mean the most masculine women having the greatest leg:body ratio?

Stating the obvious, lengthening of the legs is the amongst the last changes before adulthood, most human beings with short legs are juveniles.

Lin said "when a seemingly taller man and a shorter woman sit down their height difference is diminished"

Its been diminished by half, if you mean disproportionately - I think women have better posture. Men especialy tall men tend not to sit bolt upright.

Men tend to have bigger heads and thicker necks as well as more massive ribcages which creates an impression of shorter legs as a proportion of total height. This might explain short legs being considered feminine.

The last sentence should read: This might explain long legs being considered feminine.

The current evidence would seem to suggest that LBR (leg to body ratio) is actually non-gender dimorphic, excluding a few outlier studies which have employed some odd statistical maneuvers to demonstrate their claims.

The aesthetic appeal of "leggy women" may not actually reflect preference for absolute leg to body ratio measurements, but may reflect preference for slender body shapes which place relatively more emphasis on torso weight reduction than on lower limb weight reduction. The consequent body shape (skinny torso, shapely slender legs) gives the impression of long legs in women which are currently a marketing ideal, whereas in fact it is just an illusion deriving from a shapelier body.

In men, there is greater emphasis on torso mass (especially upper thoracic mass) which confounds the overall aesthetic in the other direction, giving the impression of shorter legs. External genitalia may also add to this confounding effect.

Prior to puberty, legs grow more than the trunk. Women enter puberty earlier than men, and therefore their legs stop growing before men's, which is why they are shorter. Women having greater amounts of fats in their legs, along with overall lesser muscle mass, narrower shoulders, tight jeans and low-cut shirts create the illusion of longer legs.

Since Northern European women are more feminine to you with the whole larger breast hour glass figure crap you claim... did you know that Northern European women have longer torsos and shorter legs? Look up Nordic in any anthropology book and it will explain this.

I am a woman and I personally like men with medium legs that are really tall. I def. disagree that men with shorter legs are more attractive. I like athletic lean men with longer or porportional legs.

In a less formal investigation of this topic, I notice that men have longer torso to leg length than women. And I think women generally prefer taller men and visa versa for many reasons, including convenience, as I will try to point out here. Tall men with short legs are able to have greater success with pressing their genitailia against the women in standing poses with a shorter women with longer legs. This may again explain why men prefer women with shorter legs to wear heals, so that when they are standing or dancing they can press their genitals together with less effort. If the couples legs are of equal length heels are unnecessary. In this case heels would complicate the matter.

Males have proportionally smaller torsos and longer thighs than females. The only logical explanation of these survey results are cultural bias and a small sample group

I have noticed and read that taller men tend to have lower LBRs. You may produce your own citation here. There are plenty to go around.

It follows that taller men are generally considered more attractive than shorter men.

I am not a medical student or professional and so I can't claim to know the definitive answer about growth patterns. It appears several people here do yet their conclusions conflict starkly.

I can say however that human's primal ancestors have lower LBRs. That's obvious. Apes are considerably more trunk than leg.

In parallel, men's secondary sexual characteristics are representative of ancestral morphologies. Body / facial hair, receding brows, larger ribcages, more musculature development, overall thicker skeletal frames, etc. So it seems intuitive to me that, for lack of a better phrase, manly men with lower LBRs would be considered more attractive for reproduction.

Just my two cents. As a disclaimer, if any guys here have a high LBR, I suggest you keep any personal biases in check before posting. Thanks.

13 for both sexes

i wud say that legs in which shin bone is relatively longer those man are more attractive......that means male who have female type long legs .and narrower shoulde and less belly are more attractive than other who have broad shoulders n short legs.....that means your upper body length should some how little less in length than your thigh length frontly....n shin[lower leg bone] should be little more in length than thigh bone length............i give you example of body of'' rahul dravid''..........he is smartest indian cricker..........just see his photos on net............what i want to say ....his photo will explain all that.....thank u..........comments on my article r invited

my height is 72" and my eg is 40" . is it good combination

You all sound like Nazis.

In case you were wondering, testosterone is a by-product of estradiol. Estradiol is essentially estrogen. Many people don't know, but it is present in males. It is actually the presence of estradiol in fetuses that determines that the child develops as a male.

I'm about 2 years late to this discussion,but my theory on why longer legs might be considered more attractive is that they are a youthful trait, since legs are disproportionately longer during puberty than during adult years.

That being said, I wondered if grown women with proportionately longer legs have a development issue. In my case, I am 62 inches tall and my legs are 40 inches. I haven't measured any other people's legs to see if that's abnormal for an adult, but I have seen many other women with disproportionately long legs. If you look at teens, though, you'll see that long legs are largely an adolescent trait in both men and women.

My height is 5'4" and my legs are exactly 31.5 inches long. I can not calculate my ratio cause I'm bad at maths. But it seems that I resemble the model number 12. Can you help?

I have been researching human proportions for the purposes of drawing and can not seem to find any scientific classification system on body types and names for those types. I am interested in finding factual documentation with reference material and classifications of body types in humans for reference.
I am hoping it will be a classification with proper names subdivided by gender ethnic and or ancestral genetic differences wich are traits in certain peoples.
If anyone knows a good resource material, please reply to this post. thanks.

Obviously terrible study..

I highly suggest whoever made this revisit it, 13 is the best for both sexes in my opinion, short stubby legs is not an admirable trait in men. This even makes sense evolutionarily.

Not buying it.

What people haven't mentioned is that testosterone actually stops growth in men. Thus, castrates and eunuchs have longer legs, they are taller etc. Thus, shorter legs and a long torso would appear to be a masculine trait. Also, testosterone actually correlates NEGATIVELY with height in adult men.

Tall women have very often very long legs. Thus, if people study the proportions of height in different sexes, they should control height itself. Of course taller people have longer legs, because torso size cannot grow in proportion with the full height.

your absolutely wrong. Women most definitely have a longer leg to body ratio.

men: 1.99:1 or more
women: 2,01:1 and more
anybody can tell me exactly how to understand this ratio of body ???

Why don't you post photos of yourself so we can point out your every flaw as you do to these poor women.

You are seriously crazy and don't even realise it. Read up on narcissistic personality and start from there.

Why don't you post photos of yourself so we can point out your every flaw as you do to these poor women.

You are seriously crazy and don't even realise it. Read up on narcissistic personality and start from there.

The flaw with those illustrations is that men with longer legs also tend to have much longer arms, bigger hands, and bigger feet... Long legs = the build of virtually all great big basketball players, football players, and heavyweight fighters. Shaq is all legs, as are most fullbacks and linebackers, as is Brock Lesnar.

Long legs seems more masculine to me, for men... Long torso is a terrible build, usually contributing to narrow shoulders, small hands, small feet, and less masculine and sturdy bone structure.

I would have to agree longer limbs (legs & arms) to a shorter torso is more attractive in men and women, and I believe this is due to the fact that it is because it is more of an effective build. If you think about it the torso in relation to movement is the dead weight. The arms & legs are the levers that move us, if the torso is shorter aka lighter then we are able to move faster and are stronger in proportion to out wieght.

More Knowledge from OmegaReds!!!

I agree with you no one body shape is superior to another

1. The study is flawed because of the test subject knowledge of what is being tested.
2. Pictures are drawn and are not real representation of human phenotype.
3. Guys with shorter legs appear have what appears to be larger genitals, which is sexually more appealing by most sexual standards..
4. Women with shorter legs have larger height of delta (draw a vertical line starting at the bottom of genitals, then draw a horizontal line between the top where legs and bathing suit meets, the intersection of two perpendicular lines is a point i measured. In general I would think that large genital area for women is less attractive..

I absolutely agree with your comments. Women don't actually possess proportionately longer legs than their male counterparts, when going strictly by inseam. However, if leg length is based on their measurement from heel to hip or waist, women often are proportionately longer than men. My conclusion is that "attractiveness" (which is very generalized and often skewed by media) is realistically based more upon the length of the leg up to the waist. This would make more sense because a woman with a longer crotch-to-waist length would appear to possess more room to bear children, which strictly from a biological standpoint, would be seen as a good thing by men.
I too have noticed that men tend to have longer eyelashes, yet lashes are considered a feminine trait. Very bizarre. I think centuries of mascara use (or similar techniques) to try to make eyes appear larger accounts for that perception. Men typically like women with long necks although I think in reality the preference is for slender necks, because when a neck is thinner, it looks longer. Men most likely appear to have shorter necks because of the increased thickness they possess.
In many regards, it's not just biological or primitive perception that attracts one to another. Many women possess so-called emasculated traits but are considered attractive, and the same goes for men carrying more feminine traits. For the most part I think it's a matter of personal preference and balance. Too many masculine traits on a woman could take away from her attractiveness, but having a few masculine features can add interest or strength to an otherwise average face and make the person unique, either in a good or a bad way...but then again, it's all based on perception.

Is it just me, or do the arms get shorter as the legs get longer in these diagrams? This makes no sense to me unless it's an optical illusion. The arm to height ratio should remain constant or increase with the leg to height ratio. I can definately see a man with disproportionately short arms being less attractive and less masculine due to the apparent lack of upper body strength! A woman with disproportionately long arms can also look more masculine and less attractive! Besides, how many western men are attracted to asian women who have shorter legs and longer torsos so I want to say the leg thing is a non factor!

Oh good lord. Why are THIS MANY people arguing about something this glaringly obvious?

Women on the whole have SHORTER RIBCAGES but LONGER TORSOS than men. ADDITIONALLY, on the whole, people who carry their weight in their upper body are proportionately leggier than people who carry their weight in their hips/lower body.

This means that, irrespective of height, men are leggier. The belief to the contrary is a cultural myth.

Oh, and here's another SHOCKING TRUTH that'll turn your world upside-down: women are biologically inclined to have MORE body fat than men. Really!! I'm not even kidding!!!! ZOMG!!

LOL to D's comment. You are absolutely correct! Men have longer ribcages but overall shorter torsoes than women (think biology and common sense). Men also have external genitalia, therefore needing more roomin pants (shorter inseam than their actual leg measurements). But has anyone taken a look at the side view of a guy next to a woman of similar stature? In most cases his butt is way higher. Women need a alonger "rise" (resulting in a lower, longer butt)to accommodate the uterus. Take into account the fact that most nen are top heavy or trunk heavy (apple ir inverted triangle) and these types are generally leggier to balance vertical weight distribution. Since men are rarely bottom heavy, and many women ARE (pears, who tend towards longer torsoes to valance things out), this is just added confurnatuon that men overall have proportionately longer legs.
What we see in the media is all an illusion. Models arephotoshopped and too thin to begin with. Thin creates an illusion of length. Also, most models are still children or very young adults. Not quite filled in. Add heels and a particular preference for boyish coat-hanger types, which are generally long limbed, and you have a skewed version of what women should look like.
As far as reality goes, men prefer women who look healthy and balanced.It's the false media perception that creates such lies about leg length, etc

Sorry about my merged words and spelling errors in the above post. These phone keys are tiny ;)

WTF. Those images are pretty bad because the private parts get smaller as the legs get shorter and the arms get shorter as the legs get longer. Plus the legs are wider in the short legs examples. Maybe use some proportionate examples for each leg length group and your results will change.
BTW you're wrong. Men have longer legs proportionally compared to women. Generally speaking.

As someone who has sold pre-owned jeans online for several years--I can attest to the fact that men's inseam/height ratios are almost always smaller than women's (unless you're talking about those of African descent--a separate study showed that most people of African descent are more short-waisted, and longer-legged, than those of other ethnicities, and I've definitely found this to be true among my black friends and jeans buyers). For a woman, I have an extremely small leg-length/height ratio (possibly caused by inborn hormonal issues that fused my thigh bones too early) and, though my significant other is about 4 inches taller, we have the same inseam (I'd know, since I buy all his jeans!) Yet, he doesn't look disproportionate at all, and I've found that men's jeans with short inseams sell much more readily than women's jeans with short inseams. In fact, it's so hard to sell short inseam women's jeans (except to Asian girls, whose predominant figure type includes a long, lean torso with short, stocky legs) that I pretty much refuse to buy for resale any women's pair whose inseam number is smaller than the size on the tag. (for example, size 32 with a 30" inseam...but when I get men's jeans in a 32 with a 30" inseam they usually sell very quickly) My hypothesis for this difference is that, perhaps in caveman times, it'd be less essential for men to have long runners' legs (except in subsaharan Africa, where you might have to run away from a lion/tiger/cheetah and having long legs helps), because men would simply fight the threat head-on, while comparatively weaker women would fare better by simply running away, because most women aren't strong enough to take on a large animal. That said, the women's ideal doesn't really match up with the most common real-world body types...the "Asian girl" type several people have already mentioned is also super common in eastern Europe and other northern areas (perhaps the short legs are an adaptation to help prevent frostbite in cold areas, since short legs = less distance the blood has to travel from the heart, and less opportunity for the blood to lose heat?)

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