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I came across these when I was out searching for Tofu which sounds a bit random, but then Colombia is a random kind of place. I popped into a 'Natural Health Supermarket' only to discover they sold very little food (and seeing as what they did sell was chocolate, should surely be deemed neither natural nor healthy). Instead, it was like a massive branch of Boots combined with a Mobility Aid store.
I was having trouble with my feet mainly due to the shoes I was wearing to the gym. My proper trainers had worn out, and my fashion trainers were trying but failing to fill the void. Both pairs had developed holes which, while not straight through to the outside, did affect the padding around the heel and back of the ankle. As a result my feet were rubbing and blistering like nobody's business and when I realised by blisters were themselves developing blisters, I knew I needed to do something. Since a new pair of trainers here would be very, very expensive (they cost more than in the UK, and here I earn a lot less) I thought I would try to revive my existing ones, while protecting my feet at the same time. Initially I had thought of getting some innersoles, but when I spotted these I thought they might be a better option as they cushion and protect exactly the part of my feet that was suffering, the back as well as the bottom, while innersoles would only help with the latter. They would, I thought, also give me a spring in my step, as while I can go for miles in a gym, once I leave and start the up hill 25min walk home, my feet can feel like they're encased in blocks of concrete.
The Heel Cups come in a sealed plastic box meaning I could only look at them, and read the packet, I couldn't touch them before purchasing. Described as "The World's #1 Prescribed Heel Cup" the pack goes on to promote them as "Shock absorbers for your feet", and the back gives a long list of conditions they instantly relieve, including:
- Painful feet conditions (inc. heel spurs and plantar fasciitis)
- Sore, tired, burning aching feet
- Shin splints
- Painful legs, ankles and knees
- Painful neck and backaches
- Arthritic joints
This is followed by a list of sports though it isn't exactly clear whether they mean wear them during these sports, or that the cups worn afterwards can counteract the ongoing effects of said sports. Either way, I was impressed that they claimed to cover such a range of conditions, a mix of actual, diagnosable problems and everyday aches and pains, so I thought for about £5 I would give them a try.
The Heel Cups are yellow, and form a loose L shape. When you put them in your shoe, they sit at a right angle against the back, going up the side and a little way along the base. Rather than being sized for shoes, they are sized on weight: these are the regular ones which are suitable for anyone up to 80kg / 175 lbs. I thought this slightly odd because that could relate to people with pretty much any sized feet, and I soon discovered a problem as a result.
The Cups are made of thin but resilient rubber-like material and have a raised, criss-cross waffle 'cushion' on the base of each which is for the shock absorption. This is also not very thick, and I doubted whether it would really work once I got them out of the pack to look at. Each pack contains 2 identical Cups, one for each foot, and they are ready to go right out of the box. I spent a little time trying to see if there was a left and a right, but there didn't seem to be, and now I just put them in any old way so I'm quite sure each has been back and forth on both feet.
I bought these to go in trainers, so these were the shoes I used them in first. As you'd expect, these shoes have high sides, so the Heel Cups were undetectable. Later I tried them in other shoes, with varying results. They work surprisingly well and stay invisible in quite a few styles, but fail miserably in Ballet flats as they come up too high and peek out at the top, making people double take and wonder what the yellow stuff oozing out of your shoe is. Considering these are not designed just for sport, but for everyday use, I think this is a bit of a flaw. And I think it's a bit much to assume that anyone with aching feet is too old to be wearing young, fashionable, low cut styles. After all, surely as you age you're more likely to go into flats than teeter around in stilettos? Though these are tall, the base is not thick, so you won't gain any height from wearing these, as you would some inserts.
The first time I wore these I was surprised by how much I could feel them in my shoe - they're so thin and light I didn't expect to be able to detect them as I walked, but I could. While they did protect the backs of my feet especially from rubbing and blistering, they caused another problem. Where the Heel Cups end is at the edge of my instep, though this will vary depending on how big your feet are. I wore these through a 10km gym workout and then literally limped home. I didn't know why my feet were so tender until I took of my shoes and socks and realised that on one of my feet, the edge of the Heel Cup had dug in and rubbed a massive new blister. This was in a place you would never normally have problems (the edge of the middle of your foot) but it was super painful and even after I popped it and creamed and plastered it, it took ages to heel. I was surprised by this effect as the edges of the Cups are tapered, but there's nothing else it could have been, and when I put the Cup onto a bare foot to double check, it hit exactly at the point of the new blister.
I continued to use the Heel Cups and like with new shoes, after a while the rubbing subsided. Unfortunately, so did the protecting effects, and recently I have begun to develop blisters back on the soles of my feet again after a gym workout. Though they don't look especially worn, I imagine they must be less 'fluffy' than they originally were, having compacted under my weight. There is no guide given as to how many miles these Heel Cups should last you for, but I've not covered more than maybe 200km with them in my shoes, so I wouldn't expect them to be giving up just yet.
Being made of rubber makes these Heel Cups very easy to clean - a simple wipe does the trick - which is great if you're using them in sport shoes. At the same time, I can't help but think that the choice of material also contributes to their comfort, or lack thereof. I imagine a gel insert might be softer and more giving than these. If you want to feel like you are walking on air, or at least bounding off fluffy clouds, these are not the thing for you. I'm also not convinced by their claims about relieving things like neck and back pain, because the cups are so thin they barely affect your posture, which is I'm sure that would be needed for those conditions.
I have never worn them without socks though I have tried them on this way. While they feel ok, I suspect that walking far in them like this might leave you with icky, clammy feet quite quickly. The one problem with some socks is that if you try to stick your foot in a shoe quickly, the sock material can snag on the rubbery Cup material, and bunch a little. And if there's one even quicker way for my feet to blister, it's to remove the protection provided by a sock. The way I've found to get around this is to go slower, undoing the laces (!) and pulling the shoe as far open as possible so you can fit the foot in without having to slide it against the Cup so much.
The Heel Cups stick to the shoe, not your foot, which is handy if you have to take your shoes off for anything, as you're not advertising to the world that you're wearing them (unless they nosy in your now empty shoes and spot the hard-to-miss bright yellow blobs in each). They're also easy to move from shoe to shoe if you want to use them in different pairs, as you just fish them out of one, and pat them into place in the other. They can shift around a bit in your shoes, but if you hold in place while you put your foot in, your weight then usually keeps them in the right spot. Otherwise they can ride up the sides slightly, leaving another open edge to rub against your foot and cause blistering. This is more of an issue in certain types of shoes - if the soles are shiny this makes the Heel Cups more slippy. Matt or slightly rough inside soles don't have this problem.
My feet are more comfortable with these Heel Cups than without, but at the same time they are not a wonder cure. It may also be psychological - I know I'm wearing them, so I don't allow my feet to feel tired. I think for £5 they are a reasonable buy, but UK prices seem to be at least double this which seems a little steep (the $-£ ratio seems set at 1:1, so they're $9.99 on Amazon US, and £9.99 on Amazon UK). If I had severe foot problems I think my first stop would be a doctor too, but several online forums suggest the result might simply be a recommendation to try these. So, if docs recommend them, I guess they must work well for some people, though for me I'd say they were ok, but not wonderful.