It is often necessary
that a heel lift be inserted in athletic footwear for therapeutic purposes, such as for athletes with different
leg lengths, heel
spurs, or Achilles' tendonitis.
There are also valid uses for
thin heel lifts when used to improve fit and reduce heel motion in
athletic and running shoes and boots: ski boots, ice and roller
skates, and many other types of specialized athletic footwear require
that firm support be maintained without heel slippage. Chafing and
blisters often result from excessive heel motion in boots and shoes as
If possible, one should use as
little heel lift height as possible during active sports such as
running, dancing, tennis, skiing, skating, and field sports, due to
the potential loss of control at the foot and ankle level. If the heel
is elevated too much in the shoe by heel inserts, rollover ankle
injuries and falls can result.
Thin heel lifts can be used as
shims under the heel, placed beneath the footbed or insole to tighten
heel pocket fit, reduce heel lifting, and increase control. Typically,
1mm to 3mm might be used for adjusting heel fit. Lifts extending
forward of the heel under the arch will reduce bridging of the heel
and ball of the foot for best comfort.
Heel lifts used in active
sports must not create additional foot motion within the athletic shoe
or boot or compress under load, for good support and control, and for
stable balance. For shoes and boots used during active sports, use
firm shoe lifts, rather than soft pads.
If soft heel inserts were
used during active sports, problems would include:
- Loss of control at the ankle
and foot. If the foot is not firmly anchored in the shoe, exerting
strong lateral pressure, such as when changing direction, can
cause loss of control and rollover ankle sprains, or serious
- Compressible material under
the heel can destabilize balance and aggravate knee problems by
causing lateral motion from the foot on up.
- Loss of control is worsened
by the use of softer heel lift material. If the heel lift is
composed of foam or sponge rubber, then compression of the foam
will loosen the fit of the shoe temporarily, and greatly increase
your chances of injury.
- Thicker shoe lifts increase
the risk of injury, as the foot is raised within the shoe. This
increases the likelihood of a "rollover" sprain or a
fall, since the foot is higher above the sole and the ground, and
because there will be less heel cup supporting the sides of your
foot and ankle.
- Foamed plastic or foam
rubber heel lifts and the heel motion they create can cause or
worsen blisters and Achilles' tendon inflammation. The compression
of foam rubber shoe lifts causes heel rubbing in the shoe at every
step, and running or active movement will create even worse heel
rubbing. The effects can range from painful blisters to disabling
For relief from heel spurs or pressure-point problems such as
plantar warts, athletic shoes can be customized with heel pads using
- Use a firm heel lift placed
under the footbed or insole, and remove material to make a dent in
it to relieve pressure on the affected area, or,
- If you must use soft heel
pads for comfort, use the thinnest gel pad you can find, to
minimize heel motion. If possible, use gel pads, rather than foam
rubber. The gel pads do not compress, but merely redistribute
pressure, so they minimize heel motion in the shoe.
- One vendor of shoe lifts
advertised for increasing apparent height offered this stunningly
bad advice on their web site:
- "We recommend
these lifts for athletic activities because they are lighter, and
offer a higher compression level than any of the XXXXXX models.
Although this means the level of height increase is not as high,
the comfort level of this softer foam is more appropriate for
sports and athletic activities."
This is really ill-advised, and
needs to be refuted:
- Trying to increase height,
as for basketball, by using "height-enhancing" shoe
lifts during active sports is counterproductive. It is almost
impossible to jump while the ankle is already extended by a heel
lift, and hazardous as well. Don't do it - it doesn't work.
- The risk of ankle and foot injury when
using a "softer foam" shoe lift is much greater.
- Using a
2" shoe lift to increase your height, as recommended by the same site, creates a
serious risk of injury.
- Using a soft 2" foam
heel lift during "sports and athletic activities" will
result in a great deal of discomfort, due to the blisters it will
almost certainly create.
Another vendor, PostureFlex,
asserts, without any evidence, that leg length compensation should
always be placed under the right leg. This is simply false, and
can be seriously damaging to anyone whose left leg is shorter.
By making the leg length
difference even greater, using any sort of lift under the wrong leg
will cause even greater unbalanced stresses on the back and legs, and
can cause severe lower back pain and crippling shortening of the psoas
muscles and iliotibial band.
Even worse, vendors of these
products are using completely invalid methods of diagnosing LLD, and
are prescribing lifts without any professional qualifications
In summary: if your therapeutic
professional recommends that you use heel
lifts, always use firm heel lifts for active sports, and use the
minimum height necessary.
|Many different types of heel lifts
are available, offering different combinations of durability,
adjustability, comfort, and control for sports. The Clearly Adjustable heel lift is a firm
adjustable lift that is designed for athletic use.