Plantar fasciitis is a common foot condition, which causes excruciating heel pain. It’s more common in overweight people as well as runners. Also, if your work entails standing for long periods and you don’t wear the right shoes, you might end up suffering from plantar fasciitis. If you have suffered from plantar fasciitis, then you already know how painful and difficult it can be, to lead a normal life. The good news is, you can alleviate the pain that comes with plantar fasciitis, by wearing night splints.
What are Night Splints?
The connective and the fascia tissue of your calf and foot will contract naturally as you sleep. If this tissue is weak, degenerated or damaged, you will experience stabbing pain when you take the first steps in the morning. Most people with plantar fasciitis experience the worst symptoms in the morning, as a result of the pulling and stretching of these ligaments. And this is where night splints come in. Night splints are footwear devices that are used by people with various foot conditions such as plantar fasciitis. They work by stretching the calf and plantar fascia muscles over the night, thus helping to prevent the stabbing pain experienced in the morning by people with plantar fasciitis.
Types of Night Splints
There are two main types of plantar fasciitis night splints – posterior night splints and dorsal night splints. The posterior night splint is also known as a boot-style or plantar night splint. It’s the most common of the two and usually described by most physicians. Just like its name suggests, its’ more of a boot, which rests on the rear of your calf, foot, and leg. It features a soft inside layer and a plastic outer layer. When you slip it on, it will stretch your plantar fascia as you rest or sleep, thus preventing aggravation. It’s available in 3 different sizes. You can adjust its stretch in case you feel like the boot is exerting too much pressure on your foot. One of the main drawbacks of this type is that it’s quite bulky. Therefore, some people might feel uncomfortable sleeping in it. Having said that, most people eventually used to it. Also, some people have complained it leads to toe numbness. Fortunately, you can alleviate this problem by either loosening the straps or adjusting or loosening the straps, depending on your preferred fit.
The dorsal night splint is a newer product on the market. Apart from being less bulky, it’s considered more comfortable, compared to the posterior night splint. However, some users feel this splint doesn’t stretch the foot as much as the boot-style version. Some people have also complained that their foot slips out of position when they are sleeping in it. Unlike the posterior night splint that is available in 3 different sizes, the dorsal night splint is only sold in 2 distinct sizes – small and medium, as well as large and extra-large. Also, the dorsal night splint is not recommended to individuals whose shoe size is 10.5 or above or people with large calves – since it’s quite narrow.
Benefits of Night Splints
One of the key benefits of wearing plantar fasciitis night splints is that they position your foot at a 900 angle. Consequently, they will stretch the fascia ligament and prevent it from contracting, helping to ease plantar fasciitis pain. After wearing these devices for some weeks or months, you will start noticing some improvement. For instance, you will no longer experience stabbing pain in your heels when you take the first steps in the morning. And with the reduced pain on your feet, it will be easier to run your errands.
Another major benefit of using night splints for plantar fasciitis is that they are a non-invasive treatment method. They will help to ease the pain on your feet, without stuffing your body with too many chemicals. Also, they are easy to use. Some plantar fasciitis treatment methods can be quite invasive. But with splints, you simply need to wear them as you sleep and you will realize the pain has eased after some time. And since they are available in different sizes, finding one that suits your feet will not be a problem.
Considerations When Buying Night Splints
Night splints are available in different designs and materials. Also, they produced by different companies in different parts of the globe. Therefore, choosing the right one for your feet can sometimes be overwhelming. Here are some of the factors to consider when purchasing night splints for plantar fasciitis.
- Comfort: Just like when you are buying a pair of nursing sneakers (some reviews here), nursing clogs (find some good ones here) or work boots, it’s important to pay attention to the level of comfort when buying night splints. If the splints you are wearing are uncomfortable, you will struggle to sleep at night. And as you might probably know, failing to sleep well at night is not good for your health. Make sure you choose one that has ample cushioning. Whether it’s latex, sponge or foam, it’s up to you to decide the material that you want. Since most night splints are made of hard materials, a soft interior lining or padding will prevent the boot from cutting into your feet. The straps also need some padding.
- Breathability: Apart from comfort, you should also make sure that the night splints you purchase are breathable. Wearing splints that are not breathable will definitely lead to unpleasant foot odors. You might also end up with fungal infections on your feet, leading to further issues. Splints with enough openings will also allow heat to escape, helping to prevent the build-up of sweat. Also, it’s advisable to purchase splints that are furnished with moisture-wicking linings.
- Size and Fit: Plantar fasciitis night splints are available in different sizes, including small, large, and medium. Each size is designed to fit a wide range of foot sizes. If you are not sure about the right size for you, you can always consult the manufacturer’s sizing chart. Regardless of the design or brand that you choose, make sure it fits properly.
- Mobility: As much as night splints are designed to keep your foot locked in a certain position, they should offer maximum mobility. After all, you will not spend the entire day on the same or sleeping. You will have to move around as you prepare meals, do house chores or even go outside to fetch the paper. Therefore, the right pair of night splints should allow you to attend to these tasks with ease, while keeping your foot in the correct position. Also, it should allow free and natural movement of your toes.
- Compression levels: Injuries tend to limit the amount of blood flowing to the problematic area. Therefore, a small amount of compression might help with pushing blood to the feet. With this approach, the ligaments, tendons, and muscles in the affected area of your foot, will receive the necessary oxygen and nutrients, which they need to start regenerating – thus helping to speed up the recovery process. On the other hand, if there is too much compression, then blood will not flow to the affected area, thus prolonging the recovery period. Also, night splints that squeeze your legs too much will lead to serious discomfort. As you can see, getting the right amount of compression can be tricky.
- Adjustability: Unlike shoes, it’s not easy to find a pair of splints that match your exact foot size. They are available in small, medium and large sizes. Due to their limited sizing availability, you should pay more attention to the level of adjustability that they provide. When it comes to adjustability, you should consider two factors – the straps and the flexion angle. People have differently sized calves and feet. Therefore, make sure you opt for a design that features either hook and loop closures or buckles. With that design, it should be easy to adjust them according to your preferred flexion angle and fit.
- Activity levels: Night splints for plantar fasciitis are designed for different uses and activity levels. For instance, day splints tend to provide more mobility than night splints, since you will be more active during the day. You can either purchase two types, one for wearing during the day and another for wearing during the night. You also have the option of purchasing a versatile one that you can wear both day and night. In short, your options are almost endless when it comes to splints.
Both styles provide effective solutions when it comes to plantar fasciitis relief. The best style for you will depend on your specific condition and personal preferences. It’s important to note that it might take some days to get used to the stretch these splints provide. If you are using night splints for the first time, you should first wear them for a few hours at a time. You can then wear them the entire night once you get used to them. Also, make sure that you get the right size. If the splint is too large, then it will not support your foot properly. And most importantly, wear it consistently. Night splints will not alleviate your plantar fasciitis overnight. It might take a few nights but eventually – the results will come.