Though night splints come in various designs, they help get rid of a foot problem by holding the foot and ankle in a specific position while the wearer sleeps. The foot problems that may be treated with a night splint can vary from plantar fasciitis to to drop foot to heel spurs, among others. Depending upon the problem the night splint aims to fix, the splint itself might be made from a soft or rigid material; it might be an adjustable splint or it might be fixed; and it may cover different parts of the foot, ankle, or leg area.
Night splints are typically a combination of a soft material, such as foam, and a rigid outer material such as plastic. The rigid part of the splint provides the immobilization, while the foam padding provides comfort. In an effort to make night splints more comfortable, some splints have padding outside the rigid external component as well. No matter what the style, manufacturers also strive to make the padding from breathable materials. Another feature in some splints is inclusion of a cold pack to provide extra pain relief. Some night splints can be folded for travel and are machine washable.
A dorsal foot splint gently pulls the toes upward to stretch the Achilles tendon and the plantar fascia ligament. The stretching serves to alleviate pain and speed recovery, and the dorsal foot splint is used to treat plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, and other heel problems. The splint sits on the shin so that the back of the ankle and the heel are typically uncovered. A dorsal foot splint is generally considered more comfortable than other night splints, which may lead to longer periods of wear at night and theoretically speed recovery.
A dorsal foot splint does not typically allow the splint to be adjusted for different angles of stretching. An adjustable boot style night splint, on the other hand, permits the wearer to adjust the amount of stretch used on the Achilles tendon. A patient might first wear the boot splint set at the lowest possible angle and then gradually increase the angle. This may help with pain management and may speed recovery.
A foam foot elevator is a device that helps prevent foot ulcers and foot drop. A polyurethane foam device is placed just above the ankle to elevate the foot above the bed several inches. A wide strap across the instep holds the foot gently in place in an upright position.