By Rehan Iqbal
Foot pain first thing in the morning is one of the most well-known characteristics of plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia tightens and starts to heel while at rest during the night. When you stand up and apply pressure on that inflamed, irritated ligament, it causes immediate stretching that comes with intense pain. Night splints are one of the most recommended treatments for plantar fasciitis. If your condition doesn’t improve with rest and gentle stretching, you may want to try a night splint to speed up your recovery.
Let’s take a close look at what plantar fasciitis night splints are, how they work and how effective they are for most people.
What are Night Splints?
Night splints are braces designed to hold the foot in one position while you sleep at night. Splints designed for plantar fasciitis hold the toes upright and gently stretch the Achilles tendon. There are different types of night splints, but they’re all designed to keep the foot stretched to combat the most painful symptoms of plantar fasciitis.
Why Night Splints are Used for Plantar Fasciitis
Why do you want to keep your foot stretched with your toes upright if you have plantar fasciitis? There are a couple of reasons. First, the stretched position prevents the plantar fascia from contracting and tightening up during the night. That may reduce or eliminate the pain that comes when you put weight on your foot and stretch that ligament out in the morning.
Second, night splints are believed to speed up the rate of recovery from plantar fasciitis. While they alone cannot health the condition, they are believed to help the foot heal faster.
Do They Really Work?
When researchers asked 44 patients with plantar fasciitis in at least one foot to wear night splints for eight weeks, the results were promising. 19 patients agreed to wear the splints in addition to undergoing other classic treatments, and most experienced a significant reduction in short-term heel pain.
There is no research proving that night splints heal plantar fasciitis. You also cannot wear a night splint long-term as a preventive measure. That leaves us with one proven benefit of wearing a plantar fasciitis night splint: reduced foot pain. You can’t expect wearing the splint to heal your condition overnight. It can make your morning pain more bearable and perhaps shorter in duration.
Can You Adjust Plantar Fasciitis Night Splints?
Most night splints used for plantar fasciitis treatment are adjustable. You adjust the angle that the toes are pulled up to increase effectiveness and ensure maximum comfort. There are different types of splints available, and a medical professional can help you determine the right design and angle for your feet.
How to Increase the Effectiveness of Night Splints
The study we just cited combined night splints with some classic, conservative plantar fasciitis treatments. Wearing the splint alone should deliver some short-term pain relief, but you’re likely to enjoy more significant pain relief if you incorporate some of these standard treatments as well:
In addition to wearing orthotics in your shoes, consider upgrading your footwear to ensure your feet have proper support. If you often wear shoes that are worn out, now is the time to invest in something that will give your feet the support you need for comfort and proper stride.
Rest is also important to give your feet time to heal. Keep in mind that you may experience pain as you stretch ligaments in the foot after a period of rest. Stretching and massaging your feet while you’re at rest may help stimulate blood flow and healing while limiting the pain you experience when it’s time to get up and walk again.
The Downsides of Plantar Fasciitis Night Splints
Let’s go back to the scientific study that we talked about a moment ago. 44 patients were invited to participate in that study, but only 19 agreed to wear the night splints for plantar fasciitis treatment. The resistance to this treatment often comes down to comfort.
Many plantar fasciitis night splints are bulky and can make sleeping less comfortable. That’s why there are plantar fasciitis night socks on the market that offer a bit more comfort. The socks are fitted with extra straps that pull the toes up toward the knee at an effective angle. They’re softer against the skin and feel less bulky than traditional night splints.
Another downside to wearing a plantar fasciitis night splint is the lack of protection against recurring pain. You can wear the night splint for two or three months while battling the most severe symptoms. As your pain decreases, you should reduce your reliance on the splint until you have recovered. Wearing the splint after recovery doesn’t prevent you from developing the condition again.
The best way to prevent future developments is to identify the most likely cause of your plantar fasciitis. In most cases, the cause is repetitive motion that stresses the arch of the feet. You may irritate or inflame the plantar fascia if you stand on your feet all day at work or stress your feet through walking, running, or other intense forms of exercise.
Wearing footwear that supports your feet and giving your body ample opportunity to rest and recover can help reduce your risk of developing plantar fasciitis. You may also want to continue massaging your feet at the end of each day to reduce stress on your ligaments, joints, and muscles.