Plantar Fasciitis Socks: What are they?
Plantar fasciitis socks have recently gained social media attention and have been offered by companies as a lower-cost home remedy for plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis socks are, very simply, a type of compression sock. They are suggested for wearing at night and possibly throughout the day. There are a number of different styles and colours available; some that are toe-less and some with toes. There are options for plantar fasciitis socks that include pouches for ice packs, and options that incorporate splints into their design. Prices tend to vary considerably, ranging from around $10 all the way up to $50. The number of different types of options available in plantar fasciitis socks makes it challenging for the patient to navigate what, if anything, is appropriate for their condition.
Plantar fasciitis socks: are they effective in treating plantar fasciitis?
This is a commonly asked question about the efficacy of plantar fasciitis socks. The answer remains unclear. Currently, there is only anecdotal evidence suggesting that the socks benefit their users. There is no published, peer-reviewed, credible scientific evidence to suggest that this is true.
When it comes to recommending treatments for plantar fasciitis in clinical practice, sports podiatrists and other medical professionals will always be referring to the scientific literature, allowing them to only prescribe evidence-based treatments. This ensures that all patients receive safe, effective and proven treatment for plantar fasciitis. At this stage, plantar fasciitis socks do not yet have any scientific evidence to back their efficacy, and claims of their efficacy are only anecdotal evidence.
What is anecdotal evidence and how does it relate to plantar fasciitis socks?
Whilst there is quite a bit of anecdotal evidence available regarding the efficacy of plantar fasciitis socks in treating plantar fasciitis, this does not constitute scientific evidence. Anecdotal evidence is just that: evidence from anecdotes. It is evidence that has been compiled in a casual or informal way, and is often heavily reliant or based entirely upon personal testimonies. This presents a number of complex issues in terms of validating claims. Sometimes anecdotal evidence can form the basis for researchers to develop hypotheses around a certain scientific claim, however as yet, no scientific studies have been conducted on plantar fasciitis socks.
What would be required for plantar fasciitis socks to be regarded as a clinically proven treatment for plantar fasciitis?
Currently, there are no credible clinical studies to suggest that plantar fasciitis socks are effective in treating plantar fasciitis. In medical science or in any other scientific field, before a claim to efficacy can be made about a product or treatment, there should be at the very least one or more formal clinical trials, whith reproducible and consistently conclusive results. When a scientific trial is conducted, there are ‘rules’ known as scientific principles that must be adhered to. This is a requirement of all scientific research, and it ensures that studies remain unbiased and valid. In basic terms, there are variables that must be controlled. This means that researchers are able to accurately statistically analyze results, to produce significant conclusions, and this process can be reliably repeated.
Hypothetically, if a study was proposed to assess to the efficacy of plantar fasciitis socks in treating plantar fasciitis in patients, there would be a number of variables that would need to be considered and controlled. Just some of these may include the type of footwear the patients would wear during the study, the number of steps the patients would take in a day, physical activity the patients engaged in, the initial severity or degree of injury of the patients’ plantar fasciitis, and standard considerations such as bodyweight, gender, and medical conditions. Researchers would need to devise a plan to avoid biased reporting and ‘placebo effect’ in patients, and a method for physically measuring any ‘healing’ effect of the plantar fasciitis socks in question.
Plantar fasciitis socks are providing compression
Most probably, plantar fasciitis socks are offering sufferers some pain relief due to their compression. Your sports podiatrist could confirm that compression is generally accepted as an effective method for reducing inflammation and swelling. However safe and effective compression can be achieved with correct strapping technique, without the need for specialized plantar fasciitis socks. It should also be considered that compression alone is not generally adequate to allow an injured plantar fascia to heal. Current users of plantar fasciitis socks are most likely also concurrently engaging in other treatments, and these would also be influencing the healing process and any relief of pain experienced. It is possible that people that have been using plantar fasciitis socks have also been resting their feet more, using some prescribed exercises, or applying ice packs or other treatments. Without the information about any simultaneous therapies, it is not possible to draw conclusions.
What treatments other than plantar fasciitis socks exist, that are scientifically proven?
For sufferers of plantar fasciitis, a consultation with a suitably qualified sports podiatrist will prove much more valuable than purchasing plantar fasciitis socks. Your sports podiatrist will be a wealth of information about clinically proven treatments for plantar fasciitis and can suggest which treatments are most appropriate for your condition. Some examples of such evidence-based treatments for plantar fasciitis include:
- custom-made orthotics, which offer appropriate control and support the patient’s arch, unloading the plantar fascia and allowing it to heal
- shockwave therapy, which is stimulates blood flow to the area, facilitates tissue regeneration and provides almost instantaneous pain relief.
The sports podiatrists at The Heel Clinic do not currently stock plantar fasciitis socks, nor do they plan to do so. The lack of credible scientific evidence regarding the product makes it inappropriate for us to do so. It may be possible that plantar fasciitis socks serve a purpose in providing some relief to people with foot concerns. Perhaps they may provide some relief to people who have fatigued feet or other problems, but at the moment, there is no scientific evidence of their ability to treat plantar fasciitis.
Please be aware that the information contained in the article above, regarding plantar fasciitis socks, should not be regarded as general medical advice. It is intended for educational purposes only. If you are suffering with heel pain or believe you may have plantar fasciitis, you should consult with an qualified sports podiatrist for a correct diagnosis and an individualised treatment plan. Appointments can be made by calling (02) (02) 9199 8754, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org .
Please be considerate of the scientific evidence before purchasing plantar fasciitis socks.
Podiatrist – Karl Lockett