Author: Chloe Wilson - BSc(Hons) Physiotherapy
Orthotics for plantar fasciitis are used to help relieve the tension and resultant inflammation associated with plantar fasciitis – 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.
There are three main types of orthotics for plantar fasciitis: Heel Pads, Shoe Insoles and Night Splints. Here, we will look at how they work and compare and review different products to help you find the best ones for you.
Heel cups are popular orthotics for plantar fasciitis. They work in two ways. Firstly, 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. 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.
These 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.
SAFETY ADVICE: Heel cups 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.
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. They 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.
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 on the market to choose from:
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.
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