Heel lifts are used to correct both health and cosmetic issues. Uneven legs are fairly common but usually make no difference to a person’s health if the difference between the legs is less than 1/4-inch. Anything more than 1/4-inch should be examined by a doctor in order to prevent future complications in the back, hip and knees. In fact, uneven legs are often discovered only after a patient complains of back or knee pain. And no wonder! If your legs are more than 1/4-inch apart in size, then each step you take is putting uneven pressure and stress on your body as it attempts to compensate for the discrepancy. For people with uneven legs, heel lifts or orthopedic inserts spell major relief. They give your shorter leg the extra boost it needs to be on par with its partner.
Heel lifts are also used by people who want to add a few extra inches to their frame. Many more men use heel lifts cosmetically than women. The goal is to give the person an extra couple of inches while allowing the mechanism behind this added boost to go undetected.
Heel lifts can be made out of cork, plastic, vinyl or wood. They are usually attached semi-permanently to the shoe with contact cement or tape. Heel lifts can be applied just to the heel area, or they can be an insert for the entire shoe. In this case, the inserts are tapered so that they are thin in the front where the toes are and increase in thickness as they approach the heel area. It is not uncommon to use a heel lift in the heel area only and then cover the lift with a flat, regular insole.
Although heel lifts usually reverse negative side effects of uneven leg length, they sometimes lead to additional health complications. This is generally true for heel lifts that attempt to provide more than 1/2 -inch of extra-height. People who use heel lifts need to be careful that their mid-foot is getting the kind of support it needs. They also need to watch out for foot injuries and deformities that result from the downward slope of the foot. Heel lifts can sometimes cause toes to be crammed into the shoe’s toe-box, which can lead to complications such as hammertoe, bunions and calluses in the metatarsal region. The risk of these injuries and deformities developing can be reduced by wearing protective socks.