Orthotics for Plantar Fasciitis

Written By: Chloe Wilson BSc(Hons) Physiotherapy
Reviewed By: FPE Medical Review Board

Orthotics For Plantar Fasciitis: Find the best ones for you

Orthotics for plantar fasciitis are used to help relieve the tension and resultant inflammation associated with plantar fasciitis.

Plantar fasciitis is a foot condition where there is inflammation and degeneration of the thick band of tissue that supports the sole of your foot. 

The classic signs of plantar fasciitis are a sharp pain in the base of the heel that is worse first thing in the morning or after you’ve been sitting for any length of time. Those first few steps can be agony. The pain usually starts to ease off after a while but often returns later. 

Two of the most common causes of plantar fasciitis are muscle imbalance (weakness and tightness) and poor foot biomechanics (such as fallen arches), so orthotics for plantar fasciitis help to combat these.

Best Orthotics For Plantar Fasciitis

There are three main types of orthotics for plantar fasciitis:

  • Heel Pads: small inserts for the back of your shoe which support the heel
  • Shoe Insoles: longer inserts that also support the foot arches
  • Night Splints: worn at night for a sustained stretch on the plantarfascia

Here, we will look at how they work and compare and review different products to help you find the best ones for you. 

The orthotics we are looking at here can also be helpful for a number of other foot problems too e.g. bone spurs and foot lumps and bumps, as they provide cushioning and shock absorption, support foot arches and reduce tension through the soft tissues in the foot. 

1. Heel Cups / Pads

Heel cups are popular orthotics for plantar fasciitis.  They work in two ways. 

  • Heel Lift: they lift the heel up slightly which reduces the tension on the Achilles tendon, which in turn, reduces the tension on the plantar fascia itself. 

  • Cushioning: They also provide cushioning and shock absorption for the heel, again reducing the stress on the plantar fascia, particularly if you have also developed a bone spur on the heel.

Heel cups are the smallest and simplest of the orthotics for plantar fasciitis.  They simply slip into the back of the shoe and are generally made from a gel substance or plastic which absorbs shock as you walk or run.  With the gel heel cups, there is an element of flexibility in them, which is often preferable to the more rigid types of insole orthotics for plantar fasciitis, but it depends what you find comfortable

Tuli's Heel Cups

Tuli's Heel Cups: Orthotics For Plantar Fasciitis

Tuli have developed waffle style design heel cups that absorb shock. The multi-layered design allows them to move and rotate in the way your foot is designed to. They stay in place well and come in three different sizes.

Tuli's heel cups receive really good user reviews with an average rating of 4/5. Users with plantar fasciitis say they notice the benefits of these almost immediately.

Dr Scholl's Gel Heel Cups

Dr Scholl Gel Heel Cups: Orthotics For Plantar Fasciitis

There are a whole range of gel heel cups on the market for plantar fasciitis. They slip into the back of your shoe and provide support and cushioning. Some are more effective than others so it is important to choose and well-respected brand.

Dr Scholl’s massaging gel heel cushions generally come out top in this category of orthotics for plantar fasciitis, with an average user rating of 4.3/5, but they do tend to be more expensive. Available in a range of sizes. Usually sold with 1 per pack.

SAFETY ADVICE: Heel cup orthotics for plantar fasciitis should always be worn in both shoes otherwise you are left with a slight difference in leg length which can cause problems in the foot, knee and back. 

2. Shoe Insoles

Sometimes, people need more support than just at the heel and benefit from longer orthotics for plantar fasciitis. These help to correct foot biomechanical problems by supporting the foot arches to reduce the strain on the plantar fascia, making them a great choice not only for people with plantar fasciitis but for anyone with foot arch pain.

Plantar fasciiitis insoles also provide cushioning and support throughout the sole of the foot. Some are the full length of a shoe, others come about half way down. 

Full Length Inserts

Superfeet insoles are great orthotics for plantar fasciitis

These insoles run the full length of your shoe, meaning they stay in place well, which makes them a strong choice for orthotics for plantar fasciitis. The most popular brand is Superfeet which receive an average user rating of 4.4/5. They even have an antimicrobial coating. They have a deep heel cup and contoured shape to support foot biomechanics, making them great orthotics for plantar fasciitis.

You can choose from green, yellow or blue. Available in a whole range of sizes. Sold in pairs.

Half Length Insoles

Dr Scholl Pro Insoles: Orthotics For Plantar Fasciitis

These orthotics for plantar fasciitis fit inside the shoe, underneath the heel and arch of the foot, leaving the toes free.

The most popular brand is Dr Scholl's Pain Relief Orthotic (PRO) receiving an average user reviews of 4.6/5.  One pair per pack. Clinically proven to relieve heel pain. Provides a combination of cushioning and arch support.

3. Night Splint Orthotics For Plantar Fasciitis

Night splint orthotics for plantar fasciitis are a great way to treat the condition while you are sleeping. They work by holding the foot and toes back so that a gentle stretch is maintained on the calf muscles, Achilles tendon and plantar fascia all through the night. 

Usually, we sleep with our feet pointing down making these structures more prone to tightening, so night splint orthotics for plantar fasciitis are a great way combat to that. 

People often find that by using a night splint, they no longer suffer from sharp pain in their heels when they first get up in the morning as the foot has been stretched out, preventing further micro-tears developing in the tissues and instead, allowing them to heal. They are a really simple, yet effective way to eliminate those first painful steps each day.

There are a three different styles of night splint orthotics for plantar fasciitis on the market to choose from:

  • Boot Cast: Strongest support and stretch but some people find them uncomfortable
  • Sleep Supports: Smaller and less cumbersome than a full boot cast making them more comfortable but don't always stay in place so well
  • Sock Supports: Lightweight, comfortable and great if you are travelling

Let's find out a bit more about each style of these orthotics for plantar fasciitis.

Boot Style Cast

Boot style casts are great orthotics for plantar fasciitis

These boots provide the most support and best stretch of all the orthotics for plantar fasciitis, staying in place well all night.  They are made up of a light-weight frame, foam padding and three adjustable padded straps.  Some have an extra foam wedge that can be used if you want to increase the stretch further over time.  

The downsides of plantar fasciitis night splints like these are that some people find them a bit cumbersome and not particularly comfortable to sleep in and they are not designed to wear when walking.  They do however tend to be the most effective orthotics for plantar fasciitis, receiving average ratings of 4.3/5

Sleep Supports

Sleep support orthotics for plantar fasciitis

These are smaller and less cumbersome than the boot casts which some people find more comfortable for sleeping in. The main bulk of the support is around the front of the calf, rather than the back and they are much shorter than the boot style support making them less cumbersome. 

They receive good ratings averaging 3.8/5 but some people complain that they don’t stay in place all night as well as the boot style casts. 

Sock Style Supports

Sock style supports for plantar fasciitis

This plantar fasciitis night splint fits like a normal long sock, but has Velcro and fabric straps so you can pull the ankle and toes up.  It is lightweight and made of woven fabric. 

Many people who have found the harder splints uncomfortable to wear swear by these instead.  They are also a good option if you are travelling. Available in 2 sizes, regular or large. Average user rating 3.6/5.

What Else Can Help?

Orthotics for plantar fasciitis are a great way to reduce pain and inflammation, but if used in isolation, the problem may well return. There are a number of other treatments that can be used in conjunction with orthotics for plantar fasciitis such as exercises, ice, injections and toe stretchers

To find out more visit the Top 10 treatments for plantar fasciitis and the plantar fasciitis stretching and strengthening exercises sections. 

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Page Last Updated: 09/29/22
Next Review Due: 09/29/24

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