What Are Heel Lifts?
Heel lifts have been used to treat conditions such as limb length discrepancy, Achilles tendinopathy, and plantar fasciopathy for a long time. In fact, many podiatrists have recommended the use of heel lifts for a variety of foot troubles. Usually, the lifts are put into shoes for therapy. On the one hand, shoes with elevated heels often cause back pain. On the other hand, lifts actually decrease back pain. In one study, they were used effectively to treat back pain in patients with equinus deformity. Studies have also shown that some patients experience lower back pain relief, and other patients who use the lifts do not experience the same relief. Patients should consult their podiatrist before trying any new treatment methods, and they should also report any discomfort.1
Can a Heel Lift Help Achilles Tendinopathy?
One of the most common uses of heel lifts is to treat patients who suffer from Achilles tendinopathy. Often, runners and athletes develop Achilles tendinopathy. However, many of the patients diagnosed with Achilles tendinopathy are sedentary. The studies about lifts for Achilles tendinopathy have mixed results. The lifts often relieve the symptoms, but they do not treat the condition. Even studies that were conducted about the effects of orthoses on the condition were inconclusive. Basically, patients should not attempt self-treatment with any medical devices without the direction of a professional. Medical professionals have done more research. They are the most important authority figure for their patient's needs. Studies are ongoing to learn more.2
The Effects of Leg Length Discrepancy
Limb length discrepancy can affect both the arms and the legs. Usually, arm length differences are not particularly notable. However, leg length discrepancy can cause increasing damage to the whole body. The discrepancy can occur during childhood development. Further, illness or injury can cause the discrepancy. For example, a broken leg bone can heal improperly. Alternatively, a bone infection, bone disease, neurologic condition, or developmental joint inflammation can also cause leg length discrepancy. A limp is one of the first signs of the condition. Other symptoms include difficulty walking, exhaustion from the effort to walk, lower back pain, and injury susceptibility. A doctor can diagnose the issue with gait analysis, measurements, and medical imaging technology. Treatment options range from observation to surgery. Sometimes, the patient grows out of the condition. Surgery can slow down growth or shorten or lengthen a limb.3
The Effectiveness of Heel Lifts for Leg Length Discrepancy
There are different types of heel lifts used to treat leg length differences. They can improve the patient’s ability to move and relieve back pain. First, doctors recommend a firm lift for daily use. Second, a shock-absorbing lift is a more comfortable style. Third, a firm lift is recommended for sports. Soft lifts, on the other hand, can cause instability and lead to falls. Usually, the lift is placed inside the shoe of the shorter leg to provide the missing elevation. It can also be put into the other shoe to help with gait clearance. Additionally, the lift is generally inexpensive, and it can be removed if it is not effective. Heel lifts have other uses. They can help patients rehabilitate from amputation, stroke, hip or knee replacement, and fractures.4
Heel Lifts for Shoes
There are a wide variety of heel lifts available. There is a shoe insert on the market for every patient, and patients can listen to their podiatrist for suggestions. For example, the Powerstep Pinnacle Shoe Insoles have a cushioning, antimicrobial lining. Specifically, it is made of EVA foam. Then, the Superfeet Orange Premium Insoles are built to relieve plantar fasciitis and they can be used when traversing rough terrain and long distances. Next, the Spenco Polysorb Cross Trainer Insole are built for patients who have flat feet. The New Balance Supportive Cushioning Insole are ideal for running because they fit easily and snugly. Finally, the Sof Sole Athlete Performance Insole features gel pads for cushioning and it is lightweight. These are just a few examples, and there are plenty more heel lifts that patients can research and try to find the most effective one.5
Adjustable Heel Lifts
Clearly Adjustable Heel Lifts are not cushioning. They are designed for heel elevation, and they are comfortable because they fit into the shoe’s footbed or insole. The lifts reduce arch stress by using a slope to support the arch, and they do not cause the heel to rub on the shoe. They are durable and transparent, and the latter feature means that they can be used in sandals. The lifts are adjustable because patients can peel away or replace a layer to change the elevation. Additionally, they can be trimmed with scissors. The heel lifts treat leg length discrepancy and Achilles tendon strain, and they can also be used for rehabilitation. Furthermore, athletes can use the adjustable heel lifts to participate in many types of active sports. They are another one of the many styles of heel lifts available to patients.6
Orthotics are similar to heel lifts. Both go into the patient's shoes. Usually, orthotics and heel lifts are medical. They are an effective treatment option for leg length discrepancy. Often, custom orthotics are made for both feet when they are used for limb differences. They are prescription medical devices. Orthotics can also help correct foot pronation, knee rotation, or femur angulation. Heel lifts can be added to the orthotics after a few weeks if the orthotics alone are not providing effective treatment.7
Chiropractic Care for Uneven Leg Length
In addition to heel lifts or orthotics, a chiropractor can help patients manage their limb length discrepancies. First, the chiropractor examines the patient’s posture. They can determine whether or not spinal issues or an uneven limb cause the patient's uneven gait. Then, they will suggest heel lifts or orthotics for the patient to wear. Chiropractic adjustments can help patients manage symptoms caused by uneven leg length, such as back pain. Usually, the patient spends the majority of the treatment wearing heel lifts.8