Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is for educational purposes only. This is not a substitute for a medical appointment. Please refer to your physician before starting any exercise program.
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis (PF) is one of the most common soft-tissue disorders of the foot, causing chronic pain beneath the heel.(1) This pain is most likely a secondary result of degeneration and/or microtears in the plantar fascia, which is the tissue running along the bottom of your foot.(2,3) Although you may not have heard the exact term “plantar fasciitis” before, this condition is often also referred to as “runner’s heel” or “painful heel syndrome,” and it is more common than you may think.(4) Some accounts estimate that PF affects up to 10% of the population, including the old and the young, the active and the sedentary.(5) Although this condition can affect anyone, PF is much more prevalent in those who are obese, who spend most of the day on their feet, and/or those with limited ankle flexion.(1) Why is this? Experts believe that the pain caused by PF is due to short- or long-term injury to the heel from too much an overload of stress combined with the above risk factors.(5 )
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Plantar Fasciitis
Unfortunately, there are no specific tests or imaging that can clearly differentiate PF from other types of heel pain. In most cases, physicians must diagnose PF based on a patient’s physical exam and medical history.(5) Most patients will experience some sort of throbbing, searing, or piercing pain in their heel – this may occur upon standing, or especially with the first few steps after a period of inactivity. This discomfort lessens as the day wears on but tends to worsen towards the end of the day, usually limiting daily activities. On occasion, the pain may radiate to the rest of the foot and the toes.(2)
Prognosis: How Long Will Plantar Fasciitis Last
Do the symptoms above resonate with you or someone you know? PF can be a painful and chronic condition, but fortunately most patients will improve, especially if the condition is diagnosed early and treatment is initiated. (2,6) Nevertheless, every patient is different. Though the majority of patients report resolution of symptoms within one year, others have continued to experience pain for four or more years.(7) Does this mean conservative therapies are worthless? Absolutely not! In fact, one such therapy – night splints – are a commonly utilized tool to treat PF. Night splints can provide significant relief for patients in the short term when combined with other conservative strategies.(5,8)
What is a Night Splint and How Does It Help With Plantar Fasciitis?
A night splint is a foot brace used specifically to treat pain arising from conditions like PF, Achilles tendonitis, foot drop, flat arches, and much more. This tool works by maintaining a neutral, 90 degree angle between your foot and ankle to create a constant stretching of the plantar fascia. (5) Though such splints come in a variety of styles, shapes, and sizes, the idea behind the device is always the same – keep the foot in a flexed position to gently stretch the tissue while you sleep. (2) After sleeping for several hours in a or having long periods of inactivity, the damaged plantar fascia can become tight, causing pain with those first steps. (5) Thus, stretching the tissue with a night splint helps to lengthen and heal the plantar fascia, allowing for a less painful transition from inactivity to activity.
How To Use a Night Splint for Plantar Fasciits
What to Look for in a Night Splint for Plantar Fasciitis?
Not all night splints are created equal – there are important factors to consider before choosing a night splint that will best fit your needs. Some factors you may want to examine are listed below:
- Restriction of movement
- Ease of use
- Breathability of material
- Support level
The Best Night Splints for Plantar Fasciitis
CHARMINER Plantar Fasciitis Night Splint
Summary: The Chariminer Plantar Fasciitis Night Splint is a unisex, soft, and supportive night splint option. The aluminum support bar allows for a constant, mild stretch of the arch and the tension strap ensures the foot stays in the flexed position. Foam padding gives the splint a comfortable feel and adjustable tension strap allows for varying the angle of the foot.
- Adjustable strap allows user to customize the angle of tension to fit their level of pain
- Washable, breathable material
- Comes with a massage ball
- No instructions provided with product
- Some users report difficulty of assembly (likely because of con #1 – no instructions)
Rewoot Plantar Fasciitis Night Splint
Summary: The Rewoot night splint is a simplistically-designed splint that boasts skin-friendly and ultra-breathable materials, perfect for sensitive skin. Foam padding prevents abrasions and blisters, while added air holes create a lightweight and odor-free product. Adjustable aluminum bar allows users to customize the depth of the foot stretch.
- Comes with splint, massage ball, and exercise band
- Very lightweight and easy to adjust
- Stays in place while sleeping
- Easy to walk in if needed
- Some users report initial difficulty placing the product on the foot
- May be bulky for some
Hiroumer Plantar Fasciitis Night Splint
Summary: The Hiroumer night splint is a sturdy splint that will keep the foot in a firm and neutral position. The foam padding on the inside of the splint reduces the pressure on your foot, and it even comes with several replacements to use when cleaning the initial pad. This brace includes an aluminum bar that can bend the foot as needed, while velcro straps provide extra reinforcement to maintain the foot position.
- Includes a full night splint kit, including splint, foot massage ball, replaceable foam pads (for cleanliness), elastic strap, and 2 arch support straps
- Comfortable for sleeping
- Only intended to stretch the foot to a neutral 85-90 degree angle
- Can be difficult to walk in
Diggtek Plantar Fasciitis Night Splint
Summary: The Diggtek night splint is another adjustable and supportive foot splint that comes not only with a lightweight, bendable aluminum bar, but also an elastic strap for maximum tension. Ankle strap is adjustable for ankle circumferences between 8-15inches. Ultra soft padded lining provides extra overnight cushion for the foot.
- Comes with instruction manual for easy use
- Very soft material makes for maximum comfort
- Aluminum bar is detachable and can be removed for a more comfortable (but less supportive) fit
- Does not support the toes, so the toes do not get stretched
- Brace may not work as effectively on users with large or very small calves
Soulern Plantar Fasciitis Night Splint
Summary: The Soulern night splint is a sturdy night splint fit for use on both feet and for most adult foot sizes. This product comes with a bendable aluminum bar and velcro strap to maintain the foot position. An additional, multifunctional elastic strap can be worn on its own for a light-support option, or can be used with the splint to ensure the product stays in place overnight. Foam padding under the splint reduces the pressure point on the foot.
- Includes step-by-step instructions for wear
- Comes with an additional multifunctional elastic strap that can be used by itself or in conjunction with the splint
- When used, the extra elastic strap may add a bulkiness to the product
What we know for certain is this – PF is painful and there is no quick fix for treating its symptoms. While critically severe pain may be best managed with more invasive treatments, experts agree that beginning to manage your PF pain with something as simple as a night splint may be the most effective and practical healing option for many patients out there.
- Riddle, D.L., Pulisic, M., Pidcoe, P., and Johnson, R.E. (2003). Risk factors for plantar fasciitis: A matched case-control study. Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery – Series A 85, 872–877.
- Tahririan, M.A., Motififard, M., Tahmasebi, M.N., and Siavashi, B. (2012). Plantar fasciitis. Journal of Research in Medical Sciences : The Official Journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences 17, 799–804.
- Lim, A.T., How, C.H., and Tan, B. (2016). Management of plantar fasciitis in the outpatient setting. Singapore Medical Journal 57, 168–171.
- Hossain, M., and Makwana, N. (2011). “Not Plantar Fasciitis”: The differential diagnosis and management of heel pain syndrome. Orthopaedics and Trauma 25, 198–206.
- Cole, C., Seto, C., and Gazewood, J. (2005). Management of plantar fasciitis in the outpatient setting. American Family Physician 72, 2237–2242.
- Buchbinder, R. (2004). Plantar fasciitis. New England Journal of Medicine 350, 2159-2166+2225.
- Stuber, K., and Kristmanson, K. (2006). Conservative therapy for plantar fasciitis: a narrative review of randomized controlled trials. The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association 50, 118–133.
- Beyzadeoǧlu, T., Gökçe, A., and Bekler, H. (2007). The effectiveness of dorsiflexion night splint added to conservative treatment for plantar fasciitis. Acta Orthopaedica et Traumatologica Turcica 41, 220–224.