Surestep’s Open Heel Modification — Everything You Need To Know

by Aculbertson

Surestep products have helped thousands of kids stand, walk, run, and play. All of our braces are customized for each patient’s individual needs. 

Plus, we alter some braces beyond the base model, offering several modifications. One example that is particularly exciting is the open heel modification.

What Is It?

The open heel mod might seem like a minor design change to our existing products, but it delivers big effects for children who need it. 

Our expert technicians use precise measurements to remove a certain amount of heel material. At the same time, we add a very thin, molded inner boot to protect the foot.

These changes will give your child several vital benefits.

How Does the Open Heel Help?

Here are some of the top advantages of an open heel modification: 

  • Additional Sensory Feedback: Some children need more sensory input during walking. Without the plastic heel, your child will be able to feel the ground better, which builds confidence during walking.
  • Better Weight Shifting: This encourages some children to have better posterior weight shifts. This helps them squat the right way, for example.
  • Improved Gait: It helps children develop a heel-toe walking pattern. 

Some kiddos transition from their heel hitting the ground to a flat foot too quickly. They practically throw themselves forward with every step. An open heel slows the process down to a natural pace.

Who Is It Right For?

This modification can benefit a variety of children. It can help if your child demonstrates any of the following: 

  • Low Muscle Tone: The baseline tension of muscles is unusually low.
  • Sensory Deficits: Your child needs more sensory input in the heel.
  • Anterior Weight Lines: A child’s weight is shifted forward during walking. 
  • Gait Difficulties: A fast transition from initial heel contact to flat foot.

For any of these difficulties, your orthotist might use one of several types of braces with the open heel modification. 

Is It Just For SMOs?

The open heel modification is now available on many products, including the Surestep SMO, Big Shot SMO, and Toe Walking SMO

We can also modify our full line of AFOs, including the: 

Will It Correct Pronation?

Yes, the open heel modification helps children who excessively pronate while walking. Overpronation, also called flat feet, is very noticeable when you look at the arch of the feet. But it actually begins in the heel.

When we strategically remove part of the heel of each brace, it can actually be more effective at controlling overpronation during walking. 

In case studies, we’ve compared our standard Surestep SMOs to open heel SMOs. Both styles help control pronation. 

Why? Because our products work through compression. They don’t force the arch up. Instead, our braces hug each foot tightly and guide it into a healthy alignment.

Does It Make The SMO Bulkier? Will I Have Trouble Finding Shoes?

The open heel modification makes braces only very slightly thicker—about 1/16th of an inch wider across the ball of the foot. (That’s about the length of the point of a pen.)

You may be able to keep using the same shoes, but use a different technique while putting them on: 

  • Rock the shoe back and forth gently while putting it over the brace. 
  • Twist it a little until it pops on. 
  • Add either baby powder or Gold Bond to make it slide on more easily (optional).

A key goal is not to crumple the inner boot of the SMO. It might take a few minutes of practice, but you’ll get it!

How Can I Get The Open Heel Modification For My Child?

You can discuss this modification with your orthotist and/or physical therapist. 

Learn more about the ordering process on our How to Order webpage, or call our customer service team at 877-462-0711 to get a list of providers near you.

(Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April of 2018 and has been revamped and updated with additional content.)

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