People who struggle with plantar fasciitis often have the worst pain when they step out of bed in the morning. One way to combat this jarring wakeup call is to wear a plantar fasciitis brace or night splint. While there is some controversy over the effectiveness of this treatment, many people report less pain after using this type of brace regularly.
Benefits of Wearing a Plantar Fasciitis Brace
In Podiatry Today’s article on patient adherence with night splints, Josh White, DPM notes that night splints can prove valuable as part of plantar fasciitis treatment. Because a splint or brace places the foot in a set position, this reduces the tension on the plantar fascia and can relieve pain.
For people who experience heel pain, particularly those that struggle with pain primarily in the morning upon waking, wearing a brace may give the plantar fascia the positioning it needs to function without pain during the day.
When to Wear a Brace
People who experience extreme pain with their first few steps of the day should try a plantar fasciitis splint at night and while at rest during the day. Because many patients don’t adhere to the stretching routine that their podiatrists recommend, wearing a brace cuts out the need for nightly stretches.
For those who struggle to sleep while wearing a positioning brace, Podiatry Today’s experts recommend that the patient wear the brace during the day with a walking boot. This way, they become acclimated to wearing the brace and still receive the benefits of stretching the plantar fascia in the proper position.
Different Types of Plantar Fasciitis Braces
There are two primary types of plantar fasciitis braces, posterior and dorsal. A posterior splint is a traditional remedy for nighttime relief of heel pain. It is a boot shape that stretches the plantar fascia by holding the foot at the proper angle for ligament extension.
A dorsal splint straps on to the foot as opposed to sliding on like a shoe or boot. Dorsal refers to the application of the device to the front of the foot. Many patients report that this option is more comfortable than a posterior brace, but also that it’s easier to slip out of while sleeping.
Studies and Statistics
A 2007 study explored the effects of dorsiflexion night splints on patients with plantar fasciitis. The study found that patients who used a night splint experienced significant relief of heel pain, compared to the population of patients who did not use splints.
Along with other conservative treatment methods, using a brace at night helped relieve most patients’ heel pain. However, the study noted that there was no notable effect at the two-year follow-up point for patients who did use night splints as part of conservative treatment.
A study by LER Magazine explored patient use of either adjustable night splints or dorsal night splints over a two-year period. Along with brace use at night, patients also received physical therapy, direction on stretches to do at home, and silastic heel cups for daily use.
Overall, the length of time it took for patients to see improvement in their pain conditions was nearly identical for both the dorsal splint and adjustable splint groups. On average, it took patients between 108 and 118 days to experience an improvement in their pain levels first thing in the morning.
A posterior brace that fits both right and left legs, Ita-Med’s splint has easy release buckles and a low-profile shell. It’s latex-free and has a foam laminate liner to keep feet comfortable. Hook and loop closure straps make for easy adjustments, but pulling the straps too tight can result in feet falling asleep.
- Adjustable hook and loop closures for optimum fit. Ability to walk short distances when necessary.
- Hard-shell construction is unforgiving and may prove difficult to adjust to for people who are sensitive sleepers.
A padded and contoured shell makes this boot-style brace comfortable to sleep in. The removable liner is washable and adjustable to suit the patient’s comfort level. Notable pain relief coupled with a soft fit makes the ProWedge splint a good choice for those new to plantar fasciitis treatment.
- Safe for minimal walking at night or during rest periods.
- Lightweight and easy to adjust.
- Construction, while soft, adds bulk to the foot and may be uncomfortable for people who are not familiar with sleeping with a brace on.
Padded straps and boot surface plus included wedges and massage ball help this brace deliver multiple angles of treatment. Two optional wedges slide under the pad of the splint, giving extra stretch for tight ligaments.
- Wedges help achieve proper fit and level of stretch.
- Finding the sweet spot for strap adjustment can cause numbness in the toes (straps should be secure but not tight).
A hook and loop adjustable splint with an included wedge, the Mars brace fits on either the left or right foot. Its lightweight form isn’t as bulky as other brace options. While the manufacturer suggests not walking outdoors or on wet surfaces, the brace is suitable for walking short distances indoors.
- Lightweight construction.
- Breathable shell.
- Toe numbness can occur when straps are too tight or the wedge’s position is not correct.
This soft, fabric-covered medical splint features a padded foam wedge for increased comfort. Wide straps and soft padding make the boot comfortable to sleep in or wear around the house while relaxing.
- Wide straps give soft support.
- Cushioned surface doesn’t have any hard edges that rub or cause discomfort.
- Rough seams on the back of the straps may irritate users who wear the brace without a sock on.
Which Plantar Fasciitis Brace is Right for You
The ideal plantar fasciitis brace is one that you will wear consistently, and one that feels comfortable. According to current research, the main challenge in implementing nighttime brace wearing is patient commitment. Try one of these top braces for the most comfortable and effective plantar fasciitis pain relief.