Why do night splints help?
Night splints are intended for improving calf muscle flexibility which is important for plantar fasciitis (heel spurs), Achilles Tendinitis, and other foot and ankle conditions. When calf muscles are not flexible, the foot does not bend up towards the knee as easily. This causes more pressure under the front (ball) of the foot when walking or running which causes the plantar fascia “ligament” to pull out of the heel. All cases of plantar fasciitis and heel spurs are caused by too much pressure under the FRONT of the foot, not by pressure on the heel, but pressure under the heel may hurt after the condition is present. Too much pressure under the front of the foot is caused by tight calf muscles, being overweight, spending too much time on your feet, jumping, squatting, lunging as in tennis, running uphill, or a low arch that causes more pressure under the inside portion of the ball.
Do you need a night splint?
If you have more heel pain with the first few steps in the morning or when first standing up from sitting down a long time, you may have tight calf muscles. If you have tried stretching your calf muscles several times a day, especially first thing in the morning before walking, and you still have pain with the first few steps in the morning, then you may need to try a night splint.
Apply device with the knee bent. This allows the foot to bend up towards knee more easily.
First attach middle strap over the ankle first to hold the heel in the crux of the splint.
Attach other straps over foot and around shin.
Adjust for comfort, not for tightness.
Adjust Velcro straps on each side to set how far foot bends up towards knee.
Adjust for comfort, not for excessive stretch.
Using the toe wedge is optional. It allows the plantar fascia itself to be stretched a little by bending the toes upwards. It can be placed directly under the toes or in between the felt material and the plastic backing.
It's usually easier to sleep on your side when using night splints. A thin pillow between your feet may help. If sleeping on your back, a large pillow under the back of the knees may help. When sleeping on your stomach, a pillow under your shin may help
It is not always necessary to wear the splint through the whole night or even while sleeping. Many (if not most) people will not be able to tolerate a night splint all night, but others find their best success by wearing it all night.
The most common complaints about CHEAP night splint alternatives are:
Heel does not stay down in place
Splint does not keep foot in dorsiflexion position very well (dorsiflexion = foot bent up towards knee)
CHEAP splints usually COST MORE than good night splints because they are new designs with a new patent and more marketing. There is a constant flow of new cheap night splint alternatives because GOOD traditional night splints have their own problems. There may not be a solution to the problems because keeping the foot bent upwards towards the knee is not a natural position.
The most common complaints about GOOD night splints are:
Middle strap hurts ankle or top of arch when keeping heel down in place.
Toes go numb. This may be caused directly by the strap over the top of arch or ankle, or it may be caused by the bent ankle itself placing more pressure on nerves or blood vessels that supply the front of the foot.
If there is pain from using the night splint, adjust it to be less tight and have less dorsiflexion. Even though this seems like it defeats the purpose of the splint, ANY mild stretch during the night is much better than no stretch at all. It is important not to cause other problems by applying it too aggressively.