- Just over 10 percent of people are left-handed.
- Studies show that about 40 percent of left-handers are right-footed, but only 3 percent of right-handers are left-footed.
- Some people are left-handed and right-footed.
Most people are right-handed, but about 10.6 percent are left-handed (Papadatou-Pastou et al., 2020). Interestingly, handedness is not the only side preference people have in everyday life. We also have a preferred eye and a preferred ear. Eye preference can be determined by watching which eye someone is using when looking through a microscope. Ear preference can be determined by watching which ear someone is using when trying to follow a conversation towards a closed door. Other forms of side preferences include the preferred side to turn the head to when kissing or the preferred arm to hug someone with.
One type of side preference that has been investigated a lot in psychological and sports research is footedness. People have a preferred foot when kicking a ball during a soccer match, balancing on a train track, or picking up a marble with their toes. By determining the preferred foot for these and many other situations, researchers can find out whether someone is left-footed or right-footed.
Can Handedness and Footedness Be Crossed?
One question I get asked a lot by readers of “The Asymmetric Brain” is whether it is common for someone to have crossed foot and hand preferences. For example, a person can be left-handed and right-footed or right-handed and left-footed. The answer is that it is quite common. Let’s have a look at empirical studies that have investigated this question.
One large study from 2016 that investigated handedness and footedness in more than 12 thousand people found that for left-handers, 59 percent were left-footed, 25 percent were mixed-footed, and 17 percent were right-footed (Tran & Voracek, 2016). For right-handers, 67 percent were right-footed, 30 percent were mixed-footed, and 3 percent were left-footed.
A few years later, a meta-analysis of 164 studies on left-handedness revealed similar results (Packheiser et al., 2020). In this study, the authors performed a statistical integration of the data from the 164 original studies, resulting in a really large sample of 145,135 people. The scientists found that 60 percent of left-handers were left-footed, but only 3 percent of right-handers.
How Common is Right-Footedness in Left-Handers?
Taken together, the data shows that about 40 percent of left-handers are right-footed. Thus, it is quite common that a left-hander is right-footed and nothing unusual. So if that is the case for you, it is nothing to worry about!
In contrast, right-handers are only very rarely left-footed. Why crossed preferences are much more common in left-handers than in right-handers is a question that clearly needs more investigation.
Packheiser J, Schmitz J, Berretz G, et al. (2020). Four meta-analyses across 164 studies on atypical footedness prevalence and its relation to handedness. Sci Rep, 10, 14501.
Papadatou-Pastou M, Ntolka E, Schmitz J, Martin M, Munafò MR, Ocklenburg S, Paracchini S. (2020). Human handedness: A meta-analysis. Psychol Bull, 146, 481-524.
Tran US, Voracek M (2016). Footedness Is Associated with Self-reported Sporting Performance and Motor Abilities in the General Population. Front Psychol, 7, 1199.