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What is a Heel Lift?

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  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2016
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A heel lift is a wedge-shaped insert which is placed into the rear part of a shoe, most often to correct a discrepancy in leg length. It is generally made from a fairly solid, waterproof material, and some models can be adjusted to different heights. Sustained use of a heel lift can correct posture and gait irregularities, in turn relieving the pain often associated with structural imbalances in the lower body. It can aggravate musculoskeletal issues if used improperly, however, and thus should be worn only with a doctor’s recommendation.

In general, heel lifts are made from a fairly solid, waterproof material such as rubber. This solidity provides a consistent lift height, which cannot be achieved with the spongy materials typically used to make other kinds of shoe inserts. When viewed from the side, a heel lift is usually wedge-shaped, with its thickest point at its rear. The back part of a lift is rounded so that when placed into a shoe, it fits snugly against the heel.

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Lifts are most commonly used for the correction of a leg length discrepancy. Such a discrepancy may be due to a length variance in the bones of the legs, or it can result from other musculoskeletal issues, such as a pelvic deformity or scoliosis. Usually, the body naturally adapts the posture and walk to compensate for such structural irregularities. The abnormal stance and gait that result can cause ongoing discomfort or pain in the feet, ankles, legs, hips, buttocks, and back. In addition to this physical pain, those with uneven posture or an unusual walk sometimes suffer from a negative self-image.

Placing a heel lift into the shoe equalizes leg length. For many, this equalization instantly corrects abnormalities of the stance and the gait. With sustained use, a heel lift can also reduce or even eliminate the discomfort and pain associated with leg length discrepancies.

Some heel lift models feature an adjustable height. These lifts can be adjusted to span from approximately 0.13 inches (0.32 centimeters) to 1 inch (2.54 centimeters) in height. Leg length discrepancies that exceed a difference of 1 inch (2.54) may not be correctable with a heel lift. Those with significant length discrepancies may benefit from corrective surgery.

It should be noted that improper use of heel lifts can actually aggravate musculoskeletal issues. Thus, they should not be worn without first seeking a doctor’s advice. If a heel lift is recommended, the doctor will usually take measurements to determine what lift height is needed.

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