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What are Ankle Foot Or-WHAT-sis (AFO Braces)?
What are Ankle Foot Or-WHAT-sis (AFO Braces)? Ankle Foot Orthosis (AFOs) are plainly-put a plastic boot-like brace that helps the wearer feel more stable in their lower limbs.
Seth’s physical therapists first suggested AFOs when he was around 14-15 months old. He had a slight curve in his ankle when standing and she thought it would help him feel more confident in the standing position. While my husband and I were hesitant, did we want our tiny 14 month old to have these clunky things on his feet, we knew it was the right decision.
Where Do You Get Ankle Foot Or-WHAT-sis (AFO Braces)?
Our PT made the recommendation to our Pediatrician, our Pediatrician recommended us to our local children’s hospital and off we went.
The first appointment you visit an Orthotists and they will measure your child for AFOs. They take basic measurements of their feet and legs and then they make a “cast-like” structure of each foot/leg to make the AFOs from. It is all pretty quick. You also get to pick the pattern for the AFOs. In my opinion, the patterns were pretty lack-luster, but my son didn’t care.
The second appointment, depending on the turnaround time, will be a few weeks later to pick up the AFOs. Bring a few options for shoes to this appointment. I usually bring the same type of shoe, in a few different sizes (size up 1 or 2 sizes from their normal shoe size) so the Orthotists can help me decide which one fits best.
What shoes are the best? This is a really hard one as everyone is unique. Here are the shoes we have had success with:
- Ikkis – These are super cute when your child is younger. Seth got so many compliments.
- Billy’s – Zipper design makes them easy to take on and off. These have been easiest for our daycare to take on and off.
- New Balance XW – These are nice and wide, pretty easy to get on and off.
- See Kai Run Adaptive – These are our latest find. I love them. They are easy to get on and off, a decent price and stylish.
- UGG Low Sneaker – New find! They are cute, easy to put on and have a ‘nicer’ shoe look to them.
With every shoe you try, try removing the sole. You do not need it with the AFOs and it will give you more room.
Another question I see a lot is around socks. Get SmartKnit socks. Yes, they are on the expensive side, but they are by far the best AFO sock out there. If you are looking for another sock option, Target has an adaptive knee-high sock. They are also worth a try.
Back to your pick up appointment… When you get there the Orthotists will put the AFO on your child’s feet and ‘fit’ them. They take what looks like a giant “this will never fit my kid” AFO and do their magic to make it a perfect fit. This appointment is slightly longer than the first one because of the “making it fit” process.
What Do We Do With Our Ankle Foot Or-WHAT-sis (AFO Braces)?
While you are there, they will give you the instructions for how to wean your child onto wearing AFOs. They should also tell you how long per day they should wear them. They will also show you how to properly put them on, heel all the way down with the straps snug. You do not want your child’s foot/leg to move around, that will cause rubbing and blisters. On that same note, any redness you see when removing your child’s AFO should go away in about 30-45 minutes. If it doesn’t, take pictures and email your Orthotists (PS – get your Orthotists’ email address). It is likely that at some point you will have to go in for a fit adjustment, to have padding added or the straps replaced. Don’t be afraid to call and ask. You kid will wear these every day, they should fit perfectly.
If your child sits on their knees or w-sits, ask to have extra padding put on the top of the AFOs. Seth frequently gets marks on the back of his knees or thighs from the AFOs.
Fold the socks over the top of the AFO. This adds more padding and covers the velcro straps.
Buy Shoe Goo. If your child drags their toe or uses them as a brake (like my son). It will save the toe and extend the life of the shoe overall. (AFFILIATE LINK)
Seth wears his AFOs majority of the day, minus when he is sleeping. We do give him breaks, especially on the weekends or when it is really hot. If we are going to be outside and it is hot, we usually start with the AFOs on and take them off after a little bit.
Seth also wears his AFOs to daycare. Make sure you show the daycare how to take them on and off. The putting back on is the biggest part, if they are put on wrong they can rub and blister your child’s foot. We’ve had this happen to Seth one time and it was not great.
I usually keep a pair or two of shoes around that fit Seth’s foot without his AFOs. That way if we need to take them off or go without he isn’t left shoeless. 🙂
Best of luck with your Ankle Foot Or-WHAT-sis (AFO Braces) journey!
Some of the most wonderful people are the ones who don’t fit into boxes.Tori Amos