Background: The literature suggests mechanical interventions such as foot orthoses and night splints are effective in reducing pain from plantar fasciitis. There is, however, a lack of controlled trials. We studied the effects of foot orthoses and night splints, alone or combined, in a prospective, randomized trial with 1-year followup.
Methods: Forty-three patients (34 women and nine men with a mean age of 46 years) with plantar fasciitis were randomized to receive foot orthoses (n = 13), foot orthoses and night splints (n = 15), or night splints alone (n = 15). Data were available for 34 (79%) patients after treatment (12 weeks), and for 38 (88%) at 1-year followup. Pain, functional limitations, and quality of life were evaluated with the Foot and Ankle Outcome Score.
Results: All groups improved significantly in all outcomes evaluated across all times (p < 0.04). At 12 weeks, pain reduction of 30% to 50% compared to baseline were seen (p < 0.03). At 52 weeks, pain reduction of 62% was seen in the two groups using foot orthoses compared to 48% in the night splint only group (p < 0.01). Better compliance and fewer side effects were reported for orthosis use. At 12 months, 19 of 23 patients reported still using foot orthoses compared to 1 of 28 still using the night splint.
Conclusions: Foot orthoses and anterior night splints were effective both short-term and long-term in treating pain from plantar fasciitis. Parallel improvements in function, foot-related quality of life, and a better compliance suggest that a foot orthosis is the best choice for initial treatment plantar fasciitis.