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I've always heard that women tend to have a greater leg length to torso length ration than men, and I think that my anecdotal observations of pedestrians of both sexes tend to confirm that.

However, now I read that is not the case:

If they are the same height, she’s a lot “leggier” than he is. It looks as though women really do have long legs and short upper bodies for their height. (We’ll see later this isn’t the case.)

(...)

This observation is purely anecdotal, though. There are studies which measure the lengths of men’s and women’s legs, arms, upper bodies, and so on. These measurements show that women have shorter legs and longer torsos than men as a proportion of their heights.

So, at least, says a bicycle designer. And I suppose bicycle designers should know anatomy.

I have a cognitive dissonance here, since again, my eyes watching pedestrians tell me otherwise.

So - what is the truth?

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    $\begingroup$ You shouldn't be staring at womens' legs so much ;-) But if you do, subtract the high heels... $\endgroup$ – RHA Jan 9 '18 at 21:02
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    $\begingroup$ This is hard to answer without a reference to the original studies. $\endgroup$ – James Feb 25 '18 at 15:53
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We seem to have a preference for proportionally longer legs (see comment here for a good summary around that study). So when you are observing "pedestrians" they have probably tended to dress and comport themselves to skew your perception of their leg lengths. Perhaps in your cultural environment females have a greater capacity and/or motivation to alter that perception than do men.

The reality is that adult female legs are on average proportionally shorter than those of men. See, for example, this detailed 1977 U.S. Army study comparing body proportions in adults by gender.

For readability I would highly recommend this much broader survey of the subject, which contains not only clear illustrations of how proportions are measured but also an extensive survey of cross-cultural and historical variations: Leg Length, Body Proportion, and Health: A Review with a Note on Beauty.

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Women often wear high heels and have thinner less muscular legs than men, which can give the illusion of being longer. Also, men have a bulge between their legs, which when viewed from the front, lower the perceived connection of their legs with the upper body. Anecdotally, when i look at women in public, those that don't wear high heels, look to me to have longer torsos proportionally than men.

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Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

  • $\begingroup$ This answer is very anecdotal in nature and does not provide supported biological explanations. Data confirming/opposing the OP's question certainly exists and inclusion of such (greater populations size) data would strengthen any response to the question. $\endgroup$ – theforestecologist Jun 11 at 20:11

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