How to Add a Full Foot Lift to Your Shoes

A minimalist guy's shoe collection?

I have an anatomically shorter left leg by about 15 mm. I know, I know, EVERYBODY is asymmetrical you say. And you are right! But if that discrepancy becomes painful or limits ADL (activities of daily living) and something simple can be done about it that requires no surgery ... well why not try it! 

Notice the great tapering job on the toes! Left sole has been modified.

As you all know I’ve been refining my homestyle “massage”  technique fairly diligently the last eight years. About seven years ago I was able to fully release my spine painlessly. But dagnabbit, the work didn’t stick and I ended up in more pain than before. I couldn’t figure out why that was happening until I started to think about what my spine was ’sitting’ on.

Modified superfly Fluevogs anyone?

It was time to address my leg length discrepancy (LLD). I had seen an orthopedic surgeon in my late twenties to consult on my chronic knee and back pain.  I told the physician that my left leg was much shorter than the right. The doctor sighed and reluctantly pulled out some wood shims. In a cursory fashion bordering on dismissive, he took measurements, all the while chatting on about how we all have a longer leg and shorter leg and that it even if I did have an anatomically short leg it probably had nothing to do with my back pain. 

Shortleg Bigfoot Seen Riding Pinboard in Converse!

He changed his tune a bit when he realized it was over 1/2 shorter in length (15-16 mm or about 5/8 an inch). And said, “Well you probably want to avoid long-distance running. Your spine has stopped growing and your body has adapted to the short leg so there is really noything to be done.”  I asked him, “What about shoe inserts or wearing a thicker sole on my shorter leg?” My doctored shrugged, “You could try it I guess.”

Crossfit ready! Love my zero-drop shoes and liberated toes!

That was all the permission I needed to begin addressing my leg length-induced knee and back pain. I modified my foot wear so that I would have an additional 15 mm added to my left shoe. If any of you are interested in which services I used to customize my shoes, or would like suggestions and specific recommendations shoot me an email!  As soon as those shoes arrived, I re-released my spine and stepped into PROPERLY lifted shoes. It wasn’t an instant healing though I can say I felt like my feet were finally both exerting themselves evenly. 48 hours later I woke up and slipped my modified sandals. I felt AMAZING.

A foot lift shouldn't be noticeable from a quick glance.

Since then I’ve had almost ZERO knee or back pain. The ‘almost’ is me being a stubborn, egoistic, middle-aged man deciding he can move 400 pounds of flagstone by myself. Wheel-barrow be damned!  The flagstone won and I had to re-commit to being pain-free and knowing my limits. Choosing to keep my back and body pain-free is a daily practice. Oh, and apparently, no amount of physical therapy can cure my Irish stubbornness. 

Getting my footwear modified wasn’t cheap or convenient, but the benefits have been enormous! I’ve added the 15 mm full foot lift into almost all of my shoes: I’ve modified everything from flip-flops to heavy-duty boots and would be happy to share my experiences with you.

Thought I’d include some pics of my short leg shoe wear collection.  I’d love to hear from any of you that wear lifts or have leg length issues that triggered low back pain!  Happy to answer any questions or provide recommendations for anyone interested in some spine-friendly kicks! Plenty of other pics available! :) Please see my other post on Limb Length Discrepancy or check out this summary for a more technical review.

Sometimes certain designs require some creative lift work - i.e. wood, rubber, leather, and camo suede.

"What is massage?" ... framing boundaries of Touch Medicine

It’s been a challenging week for me as a therapist.  Working with clients with incredibly varied expectations and needs both physically and psychologically has left me asking myself, “What is it I do exactly?”

In university I studied ethnomusicology (among other things).  A pivotal text for me was Alan P. Merriam’s The Anthropology of Music (1967).  It's often introduced to students as a way to understand how (and if) we can define music.  A definition of music is not particularly useful in and of itself. For example,  “Music is organized sound,” leaves us asking what 'organized' means and to whom.  So most definitions of music tend to look at it's uses and applications in human life.

Merriam lists ten functions of music in society: to foster physical responses, to facilitate communication, to provide an outlet for emotional expression, to represent aspects of life and culture in symbolic fashion, to enforce conformity to social norms, to validate social institutions and religious rituals, to contribute to the continuity of culture, to facilitate social integration, to provide entertainment, and to provide for aesthetic enjoyment.

We use music for worship, war, healing, timing our manual labor,  wooing, transmitting information, creating fellowship, education, identity, hunting, and many other reasons.

So what is massage?  Or more importantly, how do we use massage in human life? Well, we use is for worship, healing, improving our manual labor, enforcing social norms, wooing, transmitting information, creating fellowship, identity, education, and many other reasons.

When I receive massage I gently ask myself what am I seeking.  Am I looking for relief from a specific physical pain?  Or maybe I just need someone to pet my head and tell me it's all going to be okay.  There is no right or wrong way to use massage.  One function is not more legitimate than another, they are all in service of our human lives.  When I have some clarity as to what I am after, I can communicate that to my massage therapist or bodyworker.  In this way I own my needs and wants and in turn my therapist can better help me.

Not knowing why I am getting a massage is also a good place to be.  Even after all this time, I am still getting amazing work from other practitioners who share techniques and experiences I never even knew were possible in the realm of touch.  It's really important for me to remain teachable and open to new experiences and not come to a session with a 'this-is-the-way-a-massage-should-feel' attitude.  If I had a strict definition of what massage is I wouldn't be able to continue to grow as a therapist or a recipient.

Of course, giving up my know-it-all attitude is a valuable endeavor in all aspects of my life. A clarity of purpose is also a lifelong practice with which I struggle at times.  Giving and receiving massage helps bring these lofty ideals into a practical realm.

This Pillow Saved My Life!

A lot of you have been asking what kind of pillow I use during massage, particularly in the side lying position. So here is the answer … ready? It's a buckwheat pillow. 

I freaking love buckwheat pillows. It's true, I'm obsessed. Even if I'm checking into a swank five-star hotel and I have limited luggage space, my travel size buckwheat pillow comes with.


So here are a few of the benefits of the buckwheat pillow.

  • Say goodbye to neck and back pain. Seriously. Once I switched to the support and adjustable firmness of buckwheat, my monthly neck crick only surfaces twice a year now. I also had less lower back pain because my spine was properly positioned. In a zippered pillow you can add or remove hulls to get your perfect pillow.
  • You will live to be one-hundred and fifty years old and sleep better.  Due to all the air spaces between the buckwheat hulls, the pillow stays cooler and doesn't reflect heat back at the head. Cold temperatures are more conducive to good sleep.  If you follow mammalian life extension studies, then a lower temperature brain equals nervous system longevity. If the choice is a pillow or a calorie restricted diet to reduce overall body temperature, I'll choose the pillow.
  • You won't breathe poisonous gases while you sleep.  I'm sure your foam pillow has a label saying it is safe and doesn't degrade into a toxic miasma. But do you really believe that? Of course they will tell you memory foam is safe but why take the chance? The buckwheat pillow has several thousand years of testing. If it was good enough for the Egyptian pharaohs and Chinese emperors it's good enough for me.
  • When you get up in the morning you can use it as a mediation cushion. Well, at least I do when I travel. And if my hips are too tight to sit on the floor without support I reach for the buckwheat. Whether is is sukhasana, or virasana the buckwheat cushion has a venerable history of keeping meditators legs from falling asleep. Check out the history of the Zafu for a peek into buckwheat's pedigree.
  • It's compostable. If you decided the pillow isn't a for you, it can composted. No landfill, no guilt.