Plantar fasciitis can be a chronic, never-ending pain in the foot. If you are someone who has tried everything and you are still suffering with the heel pain of plantar fasciitis, it might be time to break out the night splints. Night splints are often a last-ditch effort for many plantar fasciitis suffers to kick their symptoms, but the splints themselves can cause a lot of discomfort and loss of sleep. Where do you start and how do you pick the splint that will actually work for you without leaving you sleep-deprived?
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Before we delve into the complex world of night splints, let’s review some basics about plantar fasciitis so that you will be able to make an informed purchase. Plantar fasciitis is an overuse injury of your plantar fascia. Your plantar fascia is a very thick band of tissue that runs from your heel to your toes and gives your foot its arched appearance. This arch helps your foot to displace the pressure it encounters every time you take a step or stand on your feet. This means that this arch routinely flattens and re-contracts thousands of times throughout the day, forming microscopic tears every time. These tears can then become inflamed and extremely painful. This is also why plantar fasciitis is also one of the hardest ailments to treat, especially during the day. It’s almost impossible to get off your feet. That is the benefit of night splints- they take advantage of the ~8 hours your feet are propped up and out of commission every day.
Night splints work by gently stretching your plantar fascia and calf muscles throughout the night. Plantar fasciitis symptoms can be their worst in the morning because your plantar fascia heals in a contracted position. This contracted position causes you to overstretch your plantar fascia when you first step down in the morning. That is why night splints can be beneficial. Your plantar fascia heals in a stretched position, keeping you from overstretching it throughout the day as you walk and carry out your normal activities.
The biggest problem is that night splints can often leave your feet feeling like they are in a prison all night long. The good news is that there are thousands of options, so you’ll be able to find the type that works for you and still allows you to get the ZZZs you need.
There are multiple types of night splints. The most conservative are actually compression socks. They are only recommended for very mild cases of plantar fasciitis that are still being treated with other conservative methods. Compression socks work by pushing your foot and ankle in to a stretched position. The added benefit is that most people can tolerate compression socks enough that they can truly sleep with them on.
There are more traditional types of night splints, too. Some work by pulling on the dorsal (top side) of your foot. These are more extreme, but tend to be well tolerated by people who are younger. There are also night splints that work by giving you support on the plantar (bottom side) of your foot to keep it stretch. These night splints can be hard to tolerate while you sleep, but adults tend to prefer them over other the dorsal tension night splints.
You can also make your own night splint with a few common materials. However, unless your foot is a size that cannot be found in prefabricated splints, it is not worth the time and money. First, it can be difficult to create a perfect splint that will not cause you other foot ailments. Second, it can be more expensive then the prefabricated models. But the option is out there.
So what should you look for when you’re shopping? First decide if you want a sock, dorsal tension splint, or plantar tension splint. Be realistic with yourself. Can you sleep easily through anything or do you already have trouble falling asleep at night? Next, you’ll want to see if the splint gives you at least five degrees of dorsiflexion (your toe pointing upward). This is the minimal amount of stretch you will need for your splint to be effective. As always, it’s good to look at user reviews. Look for products that at least have 30 reviews and more than 4 stars on average. And don’t worry. Even the best night splints tend to be under $60, but you should be able to find a truly quality product for ~$20. Just be sure there is an easy way to clean it so you aren’t having to purchase a new one every few months.
If you don’t feel confident enough to pick a night splint on your own, you can consult your doctor or try one from our top 3 list. Our top number 3 pick is the Bitly Plantar Fasciitis Socks Premium Ankle Support Foot Compression Sleeve. Compression socks really only work for mild cases of plantar fasciitis, so if you are beyond that point these won’t do much for you. Aside from that, these compression socks are some of the best. Out of 2,312 reviews they have a 4.6 star average rating. It may still take a couple days for them to work, but they have the added benefit of relieving additional swelling you may have from your inflammation. Overall, if you’re going with socks, these are a great pick.
If you have more chronic plantar fasciitis and think you can handle the extreme pressure of a dorsal tension night splint, then the Plantar Fasciitis, Achilles Tendonitis Hybrid Dorsal Night Splint by Ortho Depot might be the pick for you. They have an average rating of 4.4 from their 33 reviewers. This product will stretch out your plantar fascia and calves like no other. However, that makes it somewhat difficult to sleep in. You may need to do some of your stretches before putting this splint on to even get your foot into it. The upside is that wearing this at night can give you an entire day of relief. If you can tolerate this splint, it can practically cure your plantar fasciitis symptoms!
Our number one pick is the Royce Formfit Night Splint with Tread. It has a 4.3 out of 5 stars from their 34 reviewers, but this is mostly because the product tends to run small and most people have to reorder the correct size. This night splint is a great middle ground between compression socks (our number three pick) and the dorsal tension splint (our number two pick). It gives the benefits of a traditional splint with more comfort. An added bonus is that it has a tread that allows you to safely walk on it. These means that you will be able to make trips to the bathroom or fridge easily in the middle of the night or when you first wake up in morning without having to take off your splints (which can be a little time consuming when you’re barely awake).
But don’t worry if you can’t find a night splint that you can tolerate. There’s still debate as to whether they are truly required for the treatment of plantar fasciitis. Also, stretching has been shown to be just as effective as night splints for mild cases (but doing both is definitely the best choice to go with). However, if you are suffering with severe or chronic plantar fasciitis that hasn’t gone away with other conservative treatments like stretching and taking anti-inflammatories, the right night splint could change your life for the better. Just follow our simple guide and you will be on your way to better health and a more pain-free life.
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1. Amazon. (2016). Bitly Plantar Fasciitis Premium Compression Ankle Support Foot Compression Sleeve.
2. Amazon. (2016). Plantar Fasciitis Achilles Tendonitis Hybrid Dorsal Night Splint.
3. Amazon. (2016). Royce Formfit Night Splint with Tread.
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