When you have plantar fasciitis, sleeping may feel like the only time your feet don’t hurt so you may be reluctant to do anything that could complicate your ZZZs. You’re not alone. A lot of people don’t use their night splint as their doctor recommends. But, the ones who do wear a night splint are getting a big payoff for their effort—less heel pain.
Studies Show…Night Splints Really Work
Research shows that strapping on your night splint is a very effective way to ease pain from plantar fasciitis.
One study compared wearing a splint to doing standing calf-stretching exercises. The people who wore the splint recovered more than 3 times faster (18.5 days compared with 58.6 days)! They also had fewer follow-up visits with their doctor and fewer additional treatments.
Another study had one group use a night splint while also using an orthotic, and another group using only an orthotic. The group who used both treatments had significantly less pain when they were evaluated 2 weeks and 8 weeks later.
Why They Work
Night splints keep your foot and ankle at a 90-degree position. (For reference, the capital letter “L” is 90 degrees). This keeps the muscles and fascia the same length throughout the night and helps reduce foot stress while you sleep.
Usually when you sleep, the plantar muscles shorten and relax, and they get used to being in a “non-working” state. That’s why your first step after waking often hurts—it’s a sudden stress to that rested muscle.
How to Make Wearing Splints Easier
If you’ve found it difficult to keep your night splint on in bed, try these tips.
Make it a day splint. Spend a week wearing the splint while you’re sitting down… like when you watch TV or read. Once you’ve adjusted to how the splint feels, you should be able to sleep in it comfortably.
Wear it for at least a while. Even keeping the splint on for part of the night (3 hours is recommended) or before bed can help reduce your heel pain in the morning.
Fasten correctly. Read the instructions to make sure you are adjusting the splint to the recommended level of tightness. If the splint is too loose, it can rub and be just as uncomfortable as if it’s too tight.
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American Family Physician: “Diagnosis and Treatment of Plantar Fasciitis.”
Journal of Rehabilitative Research & Development: “Effectiveness of Adjustable Dorsiflexion night splint in combination with Accommodative Foot Orthosis on Plantar Fasciitis.” (Abstract only)
“Secrets to Patient Adherence With Night Splits.”
“Heel Pain Study: Night Splints In, Stretching Out?”
Financial District Foot & Ankle Center
“Night Splint Plantar Fasciitis and Achilles Tendonitis” Video