Do Heel Lifts Help Achilles Tendonitis?

If you suffer from Achilles tendonitis, you may have tried a number of ways to relieve the ache and discomfort.

Heel lifts are just one of the many products out there designed to ease pain associated with Achilles tendonitis.

But the question is: do heel lifts help Achilles tendonitis?

For some people, they may provide some relief. If you’ve tried other products and had little success, trying heel lifts could be the solution for you.

In this article, we’ll be looking at these products and how they can help to reduce the pain that’s caused by Achilles tendonitis.

What is Achilles Tendonitis?

Achilles tendonitis—now called tendinopathy—is when the Achilles tendon becomes irritated, inflamed, and painful. The most common cause for this is overuse, which happens as a result of loading the tendon excessively.

The Achilles tendon plays a vital role, along with the calf muscles, when running, walking, and jumping. Both the Achilles tendon and calf muscles are what allow you to push your heels off of the ground when running, walking, or standing up on your toes.

People who walk a lot, runners, and athletes are at a higher risk of developing Achilles tendonitis due to the overuse of the tendon. With that being said, as we get older and the tendon wears down, some people may experience Achilles tendonitis.

If you have tight calf muscles and you suddenly increase the intensity of your running or walking programs, it can place extra stress on the Achilles tendon, which can cause tendinopathy.

Achilles tendonitis may also be caused by other medical conditions, such as bone deformities—like bone spurs—or arthritis.

When Achilles tendonitis happens as a result of overuse, it often gets worse the more active you are. Walking, running, jumping and other activities can cause more pain.

What are the Benefits of Heel Lifts?

By increasing the height of your heel when you use a heel lift, the tendon and muscles in the lower leg shorten, which reduces the stretch and strain on the Achilles tendon and calf muscles.

Not only does this reduce the load on the tendon and muscles, but it also gives the tendon time to heal. This helps to reduce the inflammation that’s felt in the heel when you walk.

Heel lifts can also reduce the amount of strain that’s placed on the heel and they can help to reduce the pain of plantar fasciitis.

But the biggest benefit to using heel lifts is that they’re not expensive and they’re easy to use.

Can Heel Lifts Help Achilles Tendonitis?

Yes, heel lifts can help Achilles tendonitis. Research has shown that heel lifts effectively reduce the amount of strain that’s placed on the Achilles tendon and calf muscles.

Heel lifts help reduce the dorsiflexion of the ankle that can cause compression on the Achilles tendon. Most doctors will recommend using heel lifts to treat Achilles tendonitis along with exercises—like calf raises—to strengthen the supporting muscles and tendons.

In mild to moderate cases—where the tendon hasn’t ruptured—you could continue with your training routine, like running— but at shorter distances and lower intensities. But you would need to avoid going up or down hills or doing plyometrics, as these activities increase the load in dorsiflexion. Wear a brace can help Achilles Tendonitis.

Make sure that the shoes you’re wearing provide adequate arch support and that they’re supportive, especially if you use them for activities like running. Don’t wear heel lifts in flat—zero-drop—shoes.

How Long Should I Wear Heel Lifts?

Unlike muscles or bones, which have good blood supply, tendons don’t have a great deal of blood supply. This is why Achilles tendonitis can take 12 weeks or more to heal after an injury.

When you’re experiencing tendinopathy, you may want to try the heel lifts for a few hours at a time. If you find that you’re comfortable and the pain has eased up while wearing them, then extend the duration that you use them until you can wear them throughout the day.

If you haven’t experienced any pain when using the heel lifts for a full day, then you can use them in your shoes for 6 to 12 weeks.

However, if your pain increases, then you should stop using them and seek medical advice.

How Do Heel Lifts Work?

Heel lifts are usually a firm wedge that you place in the back of your shoes for achilles tendonitis to fit under your heel. This increases the height in the heel of the shoe, which then shortens the tendon and reduces the amount of strain that’s placed on it.

Even though you may only have Achilles tendonitis in one ankle, you’ll need to place heel lifts in both shoes.

This keeps your legs at the same height. Not doing so could lead to knee, hip or lower back pain.

Best Overall

1. Mars Med Supply Adjustable Orthopedic Heel Lifts

We recommend the Mars Med Supply Adjustable Orthopedic Heel Lifts to help ease your pain from Achilles tendonitis.

They come in small, medium, and large sizes to suit every foot size.

These heel lifts are made from rubber, which not only is supportive but also provides excellent shock absorption. This will reduce jarring in the heel, which can keep your Achilles more comfortable and free from pain.

The heel lifts are 0.5-inches in height, so they don’t add so much height that you feel unstable. Also included is a 0.5-inch thick insert, which can be added underneath the heel lift to create a total height of 1 inch. This allows excellent customization for a good fit.

Thanks to their rubber construction, they’re also quite durable and should last for a long time. A suede top layer provides comfort and softness and prevents chafing. These heel lifts are suitable for use in athletic shoes and dress shoes.

Take note that they are sold as a single heel lift. We recommend wearing heel lifts in both shoes to prevent uneven leg heights, which could lead to injury.

You will need to buy two of these heel lift inserts in order to use them correctly.

PROS:

  • Suede top layer
  • Removable 0.5-inch thick layer
  • Firm rubber construction
  • Small, medium, and large sizes

CONS:

  • Sold as a single heel lift, will need to buy two at a time
 

Top Runner-Up

2. Makryn Adjustable Orthopedic Heel Lift

This heel lift ¾-inch thick in total, but it consists of three ¼-inch layers. Two of these can be removed to customize it for any individual or change it day by day depending on your comfort levels.

They are self-adhesive but also come with extra double-sided tape for easy adhesion.

The heel lift is made from memory polyurethane material, which conforms to the foot and offers excellent cushioning and durability without losing its shape.

A top layer of fiber leather is comfortable and also absorbs sweat and deodorant to keep your feet feeling and smelling fresh.

The manufacturer recommends cutting the heel lift if it doesn’t fit inside the heel of your shoe, but this may prove to be difficult.

Some people have found that when using the heel lift with two or three layers, the different layers move apart in the shoe and cause discomfort. This can be fixed by gluing the layers together.

You can easily move these heel lifts between different pairs of shoes and they’re suitable for any shoe that has a deep heel. They come in a pair.

PROS:

  • Leather top layer
  • Removable 1/4″ thick layers
  • Self-adhesive bonding
  • Cushioned but firm

CONS:

  • Some may find that the layers need to be glued together as they move inside the shoe
 

Best Value

3. Dr. Foot Adjustable Orthopedic Heel Lift

These heel lifts are affordable and easy to use.

Choose between buying a 2-layer insert or a 3-layer insert. These both work the same way—by allowing you to add or remove extra height depending on their needs. Each layer is ⅕-inch thick, so in total this heel lift is ⅗-inch thick.

Thanks to their affordable price, if ⅗-inch is too short, you can buy two and stick them together! But a single heel lift is also a good choice for shallower shoes like sandals.

The heel lifts are made of medical-grade polyurethane gel that is soft but supportive and highly durable. Between each layer is a strong self-adhesive that keeps them together and is also present on the bottom.

The top layer of fabric is moisture-wicking, which reduces the chance of friction and odor-causing bacteria.

You can wash these heel lifts with warm water and light soap. They can be reused many times, although after many uses the adhesive may wear out. It’s simple to replace this with double-sided tape.

PROS:

  • Made from medical-grade PU gel
  • Microfiber top layer
  • Add or remove ⅕-inch thick layer
  • Washable

CONS:

  • One set of heel lifts may not be high enough for some users
 

Andres, Brett M., and George A. C. Murrell. “Treatment of Tendinopathy: What Works, What Does Not, and What Is on the Horizon.” Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, vol. 466, no. 7, 30 Apr. 2008, pp. 1539–1554,
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2505250/, 10.1007/s11999-008-0260-1.
Accessed 3 Sept. 2021

Kara Mayer Robinson. “Plyometrics.” WebMD, WebMD, 16 July 2014,
www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/a-z/what-is-plyometrics
Accessed 3 Sept. 2021

Munteanu, Shannon. “Heel Lifts – an Overview | ScienceDirect Topics.” Sciencedirect.com, 2015,
www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/heel-lifts
Accessed 3 Sept. 2021.

Rabusin, Chantel L, et al. “Efficacy of Heel Lifts versus Calf Muscle Eccentric Exercise for Mid-Portion Achilles Tendinopathy (HEALTHY): A Randomised Trial.” British Journal of Sports Medicine, 28 Sept. 2020,
p. bjsports-2019-101776, bjsm.bmj.com/content/55/9/486, 10.1136/bjsports-2019-101776.
Accessed 3 Sept. 2021

.Yedon, Dominique Forand, and Scott Howitt. “Heel Pain due to Psoriatic Arthritis in a 50 Year Old Recreational Male Athlete: Case Report.” The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association, vol. 55, no. 4, 1 Dec. 2011, pp. 288–293,
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3222704/
Accessed 3 Sept. 2021

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