A plantar fasciitis brace is a type of splint generally worn at night as a treatment for the heel pain that accompanies the condition. The brace may also help ease the pain that is often felt when getting out of bed and reduce the inflammation that causes chronic heel pain. When combined with other plantar fasciitis treatment, braces may help relieve symptoms in as little as four to six weeks.
The plantar fascia is a band of tissue in the foot that connects the toes and the heel. When an individual with plantar fasciitis lays down, the foot naturally falls into a prone position, with the heel cord and plantar fascia contracted. When he gets out of bed in the morning, the first steps instantly stretch the heel cord and fascia, causing pain and inflammation. This action snaps the fascia and heel cord, much like a rubber band being pulled too tight, prevents healing, and can cause damage.
As part of standard plantar fasciitis treatment, a night splint, or plantar fasciitis brace, keeps the foot from falling into the prone position. The brace holds the foot in a flexed position, keeping gentle pressure on the heel cord and plantar fascia. When the person wakes and puts his feet on the floor, the fascia and Achilles tendon are already stretched out, so little or no pain is usually felt.
Plantar fasciitis braces are lightweight, and come in a variety of shapes and types. Night boots are small and fasten with hooks and adjustable straps that form a figure eight to keep the foot in position. Air braces can be worn during the day or night and support the foot during rest and while walking. Most braces prescribed by doctors are of a more solid build, with metal frame work and hook and loop fasteners that allow the wearer to adjust the amount of flex.
A special plantar fasciitis split can be worn during the day for people who spend hours working at a desk. Sitting can have the same effect as laying in bed, as the heel cord and fascia are relaxed and again stretch quickly when the person gets up to walk. Day splints are lighter and smaller than night splits, and can fit inside loose shoes.
Another type of plantar fasciitis brace is an arch brace. This type of brace can also relieve foot pain that is associated with plantar fasciitis. The arch brace fits around the foot, under the shoes, and directly supports the plantar fascia and arch, reducing heel pain when the wearer walks. The plantar fasciitis brace is a great tool for relieving pain and reducing inflammation, but they can take while to get used to, and can be bothersome in bed.