Saturday, April 21, 2012

How to make your own shoe lifts quickly and cheaply

UPDATE 8/4/13: I have run with one of these lifts in my left shoe now for more than a year and it has totally changed my running to be stronger and more balanced in stress on each leg.  I have used them in rainy marathons and while I need at new one after that they did fine during the race 8)

Please drop me a comment if you find this post to hear from you whereever you are! 



The weather for Eugene is looking better today: mostly cloudy. Temps about the same..50-60 during most of the race.


Disclaimer and Warning: Don't blame me if wearing or making shoe lifts injure you. I am not a doctor. If you make one and it hurts you  it is your fault for not asking your doctor if it makes sense for you. Use common sense! 

My left foot "shim" or  lift has been successful for my running, so much so that I am now wanting to make more for my other shoes. I have evened out the wear on my feet and engaged my glutes more during fast running. I have gotten tired of moving the one lift from shoe to shoe ;)

One person commented to me "I think you could afford an orthotic, no?".  

It's not the money...I really don't need any arch support or anything else, just a raising of the innersole up about 1/8" to correct a slight congenital leg length discrepancy. (I probably need a bit more than that, but I'd rather under-correct to start.)

I like making things and it is much quicker for me to make a lift than deal with the fal-der-al of getting one out of the medical establishment 8) This lift can be made anywhere in the world that has cardboard and duct tape. Today, I made 5 more lifts and it took me less than 1 hour. What you need is:

corrugated cardboard (single layer type)
marking pen or pencil
good scissors to cut cardboard
duct tape (fresh and sticky, not old)
Mallet for 'pre-crushing' (optional)

Step 1) Take your running shoe innersole and make outlines on the cardboard.  If you look at cardboard you'll see a 'grain' to it..there are ridges that make it stiff. You want your lift to be able to bend easily as the shoe flexes so you want the ridges to be running side to side in the shoe, not toe-to-heel, got that?

Step 2) Cut out the's not easy on the hands so I did 5 at a time...more and my hand would give out.

Step 2a) Before taping stick try the lift in your shoes and make sure it's not too long or too wide. Don't worry if it seems too thick, it will compress with use.

cut, cut cut!

Step3) Wrap the cardboard with duct tape to make it waterproof. Start by doing a strip down the middle and go right around the backside and back around to the front before tearing the tape and sticking the edge down.  

Step 4) Continue with long-way wrapping the two sides of the cardboard..don't worry about the overhanging tape! You want that to stick to the tape on the other side of the loops to make the whole thing sealed tight and waterproof.  When you are done, the lift looks like it is 'vacuum packed' in tape!

Step 5) Cut off the excess tape leaving at least 1/8-1/4 inch of border around the edges. 
You can see the ribs (holes) on the sides here

Step 6) Optional: Take a wooden or rubber mallet, put the lifts on a hard surface that can take it and bang on them to 'pre-crush' the cardboard somewhat. For my first one I didn't do this and I just went running on it..after a mile or so I had done the same thing 8)

(PS: the oak mallet in the photo belonged to my grandfather. It is probably 80 yrs old and has seen a lot of use 8)

taping around the whole thing in a big loop

vacuum packed!

cut off the excess
beat on 'em if you want!

I have worn my original shoe lift now for several weeks and found it survived pretty well on a wet day. I think it would survive a marathon even in downpour conditions...might need to throw it away after that though 8) (Note: Yes.)

I have found that as the lift moves around it rolls back the edges of the tape on the bottom just a  little bit and then the exposed stickem adheres to the shoe and anchors the lift. When I went to transfer it to another shoe, I found it was stuck in very nicely !  I was able to peel it out but I would rather leave it in and stuck down.

If you need a really thick lift it might be possible to add a layer of other stuff to the shoe before taping. Let me know if you do that and how it works out.

Note: The shoe with the llft will need the laces loosened a lot so that your foot has room to move around.



  1. Hi Paul, what an inspirational website you have! I have a leg length difference of 16mm or a bit over half an inch.
    I am a keen marathoner but have not done an event for a few years due to neck pain from running - this is what led me to get scans etc and find out about the LLD. I agree it is quite difficult to get a lift from the medical establishment. I recently had some regular shoes built up by a shoe repairer - they split the sole and put in a piece of EVA which is meant to be a pretty durable and non-condensable foam. They sold me a piece big enough to cut 3 inserts (2mm high) for $5.
    I also noticed some sheets of eva available on ebay - it is advertised for use for craft - but I think would suit our needs. Because of the amount of lift I need I need to build on the inside and outside of shoe - but eva would be good for both.
    My only reservation was that the eva (12mm high piece) did make the shoe a little heavy, so this would be annoying for marathon distance.
    thanks for sharing your DIY version.
    all the best
    Loretta (

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. Good idea fof a quick lift, b ut the cardboard is not that stable, it will flatten and if the lift is necessary for fixing overuse injuries of longer leg...its not a great idea...

    For the runner who used EVA...and found it heavy...i understand some companies that do these lifts can create a honeycomb effect by cutting out pieces, making it lighter....

    1. Thanks for your feedback. I find the cardboard is very stable wrapped in duct tape. Some of my lifts have been in use for more than a year and they are still doing their job just fine.

      I don't fully correct my leg length difference with the lift. I think about half of it is what I'm doing. (I experimented with a thicker lift until it felt pretty even).

      I think sudden changes aren't a good far the modest lift is doing me well. I have been running much harder and faster than every before, and have had no injuries (partly this is from using the Chi-style form)


  5. These days many online solution available for shoe lifts so if you don't have time to create one just buy one.

    1. I know this was left in 2015 but if I wanted to buy one I know how to do that. I'm here because I specifically googled how to MAKE one. So anyone who's here, I would assume, is looking for a DIY option. Based off this I figured out how to make a really effective one for my skates because they needed an arch and it worked brilliantly.

    2. Hi Rubi,
      Glad it worked out for you.


  7. You can make one from the sole of a cheap flip-flop, if you need one that thick. As J. Singh replied, there are many online options available. Some are inexpensive.

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  9. Just buy cork and cut works great

  10. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  12. Replies
    1. Hint....type in to google
      "What is EVA material"


  13. Hi I used a flip flop for my lift your idea works thanks for idea products in the store are expensive


Feel free to leave a comment!