If you measured the legs of 100 people, about 50 will have one shorter than the other. The issue is either anatomical, functional or a combination of both. An anatomical issue means your bones grew at varying lengths or you had an illness or condition that prohibited growth. A functional issue is misalignment of the spine, pelvis or a muscle imbalance. Lifting shoes can address problems with leg length or sacrum height.
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Get a complete and thorough exam to determine if you have anatomical or functional leg-length issues or a combination of both. You also need to know which leg is shorter and by how much, preferably in millimetres. If your leg length discrepancy is greater than 12 millimetres, you cannot use heel lifts to lift shoes.
Choose whether to use heel lifts, orthotics (shoe inserts to adjust biomechanics), lifted shoes or get custom shoes made. Heel lifts are better for a true anatomical leg-length issue, according to Dr. Arthur B. Gross, a private practice chiropractor and expert on leg-length deficiencies. Orthotics can work in combination with heels lifts if you have a combined problem. If you wear a particular pair of shoes all the time, adding heel height to these shoes is an option. You can get custom shoes with increased heel height if the other options do not suit you. Consider leg-length-discrepancy cause, budget, and convenience when deciding which option is best for you.
Try your newly lifted shoes around the house first. Make sure that you can walk comfortably without stumbling or significantly altering your walk. Check that the lifted shoes do not cause pressure points on your foot. If you have elected to use heel lifts or orthotics, try them in different pairs of shoes for fit and comfort. Wear the shoes for several hours at home before testing them outside of the house. For orthotics, you might need to wear them for a limited time each day to get used to them.
Have a professional recheck leg length while you are wearing lifted shoes. The professional can make or suggest adjustments to improve fit.
Tips and warnings
- Heel lifts between three and nine millimetres can go in most any shoe according to Dr. Gross.
- Heel lifts taller than nine millimetres work best in a boot or shoe with a higher back like a high-top sneaker.
- Anything over 12 millimetres is too big for any shoe and would require you to consider a custom-made shoe.
- Insert heel lifts in the shoe under the shoe liner.
- Some insurance policies will cover the cost for custom orthotics or shoes.
- Some medical professionals believe that orthotics do not retrain muscles and do not fix leg-length issues, especially if it is a functional-leg-length problem.
- Short heel lifts can cause pressure point problems or slide in your shoes.
- Do not attempt to make your own heel lifts or shoe inserts. Improperly fitted inserts or lifts can cause other problems.
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