Different length legs - how to get used to the orthotic?
March 1, 2009 3:18 AM   Subscribe

I have different length legs. Three weeks ago I was given an orthotic at the hospital. It is a heep raise only and 8mm high. I was told try it in all your shoes, if you get tired, take it out and have a rest. I am used to the feel of it now but am finding it hard to exercise as much as I used to. At best it is uncomfortable, at worst painful - both in the shorter and the longer leg. I am getting fed up and frustrated. I have an appointment in 7 weeks time, I know you are not my doctor, but I'd be interested in peoples' actual experience of getting used to thse things. More inside...

I always knew I had leg length disparity. I had little pain if I was sensible, ie didn't wear slip on / mule / flip flop shoes, mainly. Started exercising a couple of years ago (slow running, walking, cross-trainer / rower/ static recumbent bike). Got 28lbs shed and managed a slow half-marathon (ran all the way though). BUT - getting my gait analysed for my trainers, noticed my right (longer) leg bent inwards at the anke. As my calf muscles developed, noticed the right one started to bulge higher up my leg and bulged out more than the left so saw the doc and got referred to the orthopedic hospital.

I have been feeling a change in how I walk and stand, no longer walking on the outside of the left foot and inside of the right one and the muscles on the calves seem more even now. Have been doing some walking (eg this week one day 20 and 40 mins, one day 55 mins, in trainers, going pretty fast) but I find I can't do as much without getting pain in the calf, knee of the short leg and the calf of the long leg.

I'm sure it's all adjustment and I can still fit into my UK size 10 clothes, but having gone on the elliptical and managed 5 mins before my knee hurt, I am upset and worried about how long it will take me to adjust. I also feel a bit pathetic already (only 8mm)

Other info might be useful - female, 37yo, 140 lbs.

I wasn't given any exercises by the orthopedic surgeon/ orthotics man. This is a question as much about emotionally adjusting and setting expectations as it is about physical stuff, but info on both very much appreciated. Thank you!
posted by LyzzyBee to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You need to see a prosthetic specialist.
posted by watercarrier at 4:39 AM on March 1, 2009

If you state your location, and are open to it, I could help you find someone in your area or relatively near.
posted by watercarrier at 4:40 AM on March 1, 2009

This forum and post - might be of help in the meantime
posted by watercarrier at 4:49 AM on March 1, 2009

Watercarrier - I'm in Birmingham UK, however a prosthetist does bits for missing limbs, don't they, and I'm just talking about a heel raise in my shoes (would have helped if I'd typed it right in the first place!). The implication in the orthotic guy's "if it tires you out, take it out for a while" I thought was "it might be a bit tricky for a while", you know how they underestimate these things.

I'm not saying it's not serious, and I appreicate your advice but it worries me a bit too! And this is all on the NHS, I can't afford private treatment if what I get on the NHS is sufficient...

I'm just hoping to get some experiences similar to mine. The orthopaedic surgeon and orthotic specialist both know all the back story and examined the muscles and said they'd sort out by the way, which they are... kind of...
posted by LyzzyBee at 4:53 AM on March 1, 2009

Ooh - and what a brilliant forum - thank you - just what I was looking for - seems I'm not unusual which is what I was concerned about!
posted by LyzzyBee at 4:56 AM on March 1, 2009

I sent this link to a friend who has hemihypertrophy. She had her leg lengthened when she was fifteen because the lifts and things didn't do enough. (Apparently she was very lopsided. Not noticeable now. Got some wicked cool pirate scars though.)

She suggests having a sole built up into the shoe that needs the lift, not just the heel. That way it's the whole shoe and not just something awkward stuffed under the heel, which can throw you off balance. (Like wearing one high-heeled shoe and one normal shoe.) She wouldn't be surprised if the balance-compensating - even on a level you don't notice - is what's causing the pain.

A person who specializes in orthopedic shoes could probably sort this out.
posted by cmyk at 5:15 AM on March 1, 2009

Surgery when I was 16 left my right leg 3/4" (2cm) shorter than my left. They gave me a little foam rubber pad to put in the heel of my shoe, but it wore out pretty quickly. I didn't use anything for years (which kind of screwed up my opposite knee), until an orthopedist suggested I buy a resoleable pair of shoes, then have them peel off the sole and insert an extra layer of rubber to raise it up. I get all my shoes done now (which is kind of a hassle, since complicated scupltured/pneumatic soles are all the rage these days and shoes like that can't be resoled). I have noticeably less trouble with my knee and lower back. I think New Balance shoes are generally resoleable--at least they used to be, my athletic shoes are about ten years old.
posted by The Tensor at 5:18 AM on March 1, 2009

LyzzyBee - glad the forum will be of help. It would be a good idea to post there about the problem you are having and ask for a recommendation for a professional evaluation and fitting. If anyone would know, they would. Good luck and only good health.
posted by watercarrier at 5:35 AM on March 1, 2009

I don't know if this is possible (or recommended) but if you can't get in to see the orthopedic surgeon for weeks, could you see a pedorthist? He/she could probably give you exercises and advice to help with the pain. I had a fantastic experience with a pedorthist recently for a minor foot issue and she gave me some exercises to help, along with generic orthotics that she customized a bit for me.
posted by pised at 6:09 AM on March 1, 2009

I have been feeling a change in how I walk and stand, no longer walking on the outside of the left foot and inside of the right one

Perhaps your gait-with-heel-insert does not comport with the wear patterns you established breaking in and using your existing shoes. Think how trying on someone else's worn shoes can feel very strange and uncomfortable. What if you tried the insert with a new pair of shoes, preferably chosen after using the insert while trying them on in the store?
posted by carmicha at 6:44 AM on March 1, 2009

Thanks for the comments so far.

Just to clarify

I haven't got pain now in a normal day, only when I exercise more than walking for 55 minutes, which does not fit in with my old schedule of walking for 55 mins twice in a day, running for an hour or so a couple of times a week and going on my machines for an hour's session.

I did have some pain on a normal day at first... .so is it "just" a question of taking it gently and not expecting too much of myself?
posted by LyzzyBee at 8:34 AM on March 1, 2009

I have rather poorly designed feet and began wearing orthotics several years ago. At that time, I was walking 5-6 strenuous miles daily.

I found that the design and fit of the shoes in which I wore the orthotics was as important as the orthotic itself. In some shoes, the initial discomfort caused by adjusting to the orthotic never abated. I.e., the shoe is as important as the orthotic. A good orthotic won't make a bad shoe any better.

Most of us do not know how to properly fit shoes. Neither do most shoe store clerks. What worked for me was finding a competent podiatrist who specified the characteristics of the shoes I needed to wear, and then wrote it down on a quasi-prescription. I found a reliable shoe store staffed with competent fitters, took them the "prescription," and now buy all my shoes there.

Never try on shoes without the orthotic. And, be prepared to pay for good shoes.
posted by justcorbly at 1:00 PM on March 1, 2009

« Older Trying to import a boyfriend?   |   Bonding Activities with my 15 year old brother. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.