Orthopedic shoes, heel lifts and orthotic inserts help correct posture in some people who have skeletal abnormalities. Doctors sometimes prescribe specialized shoes and orthotic shoe inserts for people with scoliosis, or sideways spine curvature. These devices can help reduce associated pain and prevent further progression of the condition, according to “Dynamic Chiropractic.”
Many stores sell orthopedic shoes, orthotic inserts and heel lifts that are designed to fit the gait of someone with an “average” foot. Most orthoses you can buy at a store aren’t custom designed, which means they are less effective for anyone who doesn’t fit into the “average” category, according to the Department of Surgery at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. In fact, they may make scoliosis worse or create orthopedic problems in other parts of the body if they don’t fit properly. Custom orthoses prescribed by a doctor are more expensive, but the payoff is that they will provide more effective support.
Scoliosis most commonly occurs in children during the growth spurt that precedes puberty, according to MayoClinic.com. A child with asymmetrical leg growth may end up with imbalanced spinal growth, but using a heel lift — a wedge-shaped shoe insert — in the shoe of the shorter leg may provide extra support for his legs and promote balanced spinal growth. However, if one leg is shorter because the foot has poor arch development or because the child places excess weight on the inside of one sole, the child may need a specialized orthotic to support that foot in specific areas around the arch. If a child’s leg is functionally rather than anatomically shorter, his scoliosis may worsen if he wears a heel lift rather than an orthotic shoe insert.
Research shows that heel lifts can force a body with scoliosis into better alignment. In an article published in a 2001 issue of “European Spine Journal,” young patients with scoliosis had significantly reduced spinal curvature and improved postural adaptations such as better alignment in the pelvis when they wore appropriately fitting lifts. Orthopedic shoes and specialized shoe inserts may help prevent further progression of spine curvature in young people with asymmetrical legs and reduce back pain in adults with scoliosis. However, whether heel lifts can reduce existing spine curvature is uncertain, according to an article in "The New York Times Health Guide."
Orthopedic shoes and shoe inserts aren’t right for everyone, and they aren’t always the only line of treatment for someone who has — or is at risk of developing — scoliosis. Someone with scoliosis should see a doctor for a full spinal examination, X-rays and an assessment of her lower extremities, according to the “Dynamic Chiropractic." Depending on the type and severity of her scoliosis, she may also need to undergo physical therapy, wear a spinal brace or even undergo surgery to straighten her spine.