Benefits of a Plantar Fasciitis Brace
A plantar fasciitis brace is a type of foot splint that is worn throughout the night or during the day to keep the plantar fascia stretched. It is a highly beneficial treatment, and one of the most effective ways of preventing morning foot pain from plantar fasciitis.
Together with other plantar fasciitis treatments, the regular (or even continuous) application of a plantar fasciitis brace can see plantar foot pain eliminated in just a few days, and can significantly speed up the healing process. Considering that plantar fasciitis can take weeks or even months to heel, it is not hard to see why so many sufferers of the condition choose this method of treatment.
A plantar fasciitis brace is designed to hold the foot in a dorsiflexed position – keeping the flexed slightly upwards. Other models achieve this by a design which keeps the toes pointing upwards. The small degree of dorsiflexion may not appear to be very much, but it is enough to apply just enough pressure to gently stretch the plantar fascia, and that is all that is required to prevent morning foot pain. However, many of these braces can also be used to treat Achilles tendinopathy, provided that the design also stretches the Achilles tendon.
Benefits of a Plantar Fasciitis Night Brace
When these foot braces are worn throughout the night, contraction of the plantar fascia is prevented. Since it is the contraction of the plantar fascia during rest and the sudden stretching when the first steps are taken which causes the crippling pain, these devices can be highly beneficial and morning foot pain episodes can be completely avoided. Provided that you take care not to over stretch your plantar fascia during the day, such as by playing sports or performing exercises which place a high strain on the plantar fascia, a night brace for plantar fasciitis treatment may be the only device you will need to purchase to allow the plantar fascia to heal.
These devices are ideal for the treatment of severe plantar fasciitis, and for anyone who is plagued by morning foot pain. The downside is that many models are bulky, and while they are comfortable on the feet, they can take some getting used to. The cost may be off putting, with some models priced up to around $80; however lower cost models are available for around $25. Most plantar fasciitis sufferers who have tried this treatment method will agree that this is money exceptionally well spent.
Benefits of A Plantar Fasciitis Day Brace
A day brace may not be required for treatment, which is good news as these devices are much more restrictive for day use, when mobility needs to be maintained. However if you are keen to speed up the healing process as much as possible, or if you are suffering from severe plantar fasciitis, day braces can be a worthwhile purchase. They are particularly useful for anyone who is required to sit at a desk all day for work. Just as with sleeping, any period of rest can trigger pain when the plantar fascia suddenly stretches again.
Day braces need to be more robust as they have to cope with the forces generated from walking and weight bearing, and tend to be made out of more rigid materials. They are worn over socks, and in place of a shoe in most cases. If you suffer from plantar fasciitis in both feet, it is not going to be an option to wear two of these – certainly if you want to be able to walk.
An alternative to a day brace is a softer and more flexible foot arch brace. These treatment options can be worn inside of a shoe, albeit a loose fitting one. These apply pressure to the plantar fascia, but do not lift the toes up into the dorsiflexed position. Most plantar fasciitis sufferers may benefit more from slipping a pair of heel seats into shoes to raise the heel. These devices work on a very simple principle, although the design and technology which goes into their creation can be quite complex. By lifting the heel, the strain on the plantar fascia is reduced, and the range of movement is limited. Heal seats on their own can be sufficient treatment for plantar fasciitis, although they will do little to prevent morning foot pain. You can read about heel seats here.
Benefits of an Arch Brace for Plantar Fasciitis
This type of brace for plantar fasciitis is specifically designed to help relieve chronic foot arch pain. If your plantar fasciitis pain is in the middle of your foot, or close to your toes, these can be highly effective, although they also target heel pain from damage to the plantar fascia where it inserts into the heel bone. The arch brace is designed to fit comfortably around the foot arch, and can easily be worn under socks and shoes. It works by applying support the plantar fascia and the foot arch. It is medically proven to help reduce inflammation (by compression) and can relieve plantar foot pain by preventing over stretching of the ligament. These devices are particularly useful for preventing over collapsing of the foot arch, which can place a high strain on the plantar fascia. The arches can collapse when you have to spend long periods of time on your feet, and they are a great choice when a rigid plantar fasciitis brace is not practical to wear, and reduces mobility too much. An arch brace is typically the lowest cost brace for plantar fasciitis you can purchase.
How to Choose a Foot Brace for Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis braces are constructed from lightweight materials, and there are many designs to choose from depending on the degree of stretching required, and personal preference of the design.
A rigid foot brace for plantar fasciitis treatment is the most robust option, and will be able to cope with walking and placing weight on the foot, and is certainly the most comfortable to wear. These tend to feature a plastic design which holds the foot flexed upwards. The brace runs up the back of the calf, but has an open front, with easy fastening straps to quickly secure it in place. These can be a good choice for taking to the office and strapping on when you have a few hours of sitting down ahead of you. While they are easier and quicker to strap on your feet, and do not require you to take your socks off, they are much bulkier than the softer fabric counterparts. They are however, very comfortable to wear provided you do not have to move around too much – when an arch brace may be a more practical solution.
The softer fabric braces tend to use a different design, although they have the same effect. You slip them on your foot like a sock and a strap holds the toes pointing upwards. This is typically achieved with a cord running from the toes to the ankle where it is fastened. They are comfortable against the skin, but can exert pressure on the lower leg and can be a little uncomfortable if wearing for longer periods. You may need to release the hook and loop leg strap from time to time to maintain comfort. Keep an eye out for a model with a non slip or traction sole. While you may only be wearing the brace during the night, if you need to get up you do not want to be slipping and sliding around on your way to the bathroom. The softer models usually have a cost advantage, and are generally – but not always – cheaper than the rigid plantar fasciitis foot braces.
Regardless of the model you choose, be sure to order the right size. A foot brace for plantar fasciitis is usually sold in small, medium, large or extra large to match your foot size. If you have particularly small or large feet, you may need to shop around a bit more to find one which will fit your foot snugly. Get the wrong size and it is not going to be comfortable to wear and is unlikely to be effective. Also try to find a model which gives the feet some room to breathe. A soft foot brace for plantar fasciitis may well be made of breathable materials, but if you are prone to get hot and sweaty feet, the more open the design is, the more comfortable it will be to wear.
Our recommendations for an effective, lightweight and comfortable foot brace for treating plantar fasciitis is this model by Bird and Cronin. It is sold at a great price, it is robust but comfortable to wear, and allows the air to circulate to prevent sweaty and uncomfortable feet in the night. Picture: Top Right
If you prefer an arch brace, this model made by Pro-Tec Athletics is a good choice. Picture: Middle Right.