What is an Ankle Foot Orthoses (AFO)?
An AFO is a brace that is designed to couple the foot and lower leg together in order to restore optimum function to the entire lower extremity. AFO’s come in many different styles and are fabricated from a wide variety of materials including plastics, leather and carbon graphite. Very frequently these devices are custom made over a three dimensional model of a patient’s foot and leg and are prescribed and dispensed by health care practitioners. AFO’s are usually worn in extra depth shoes.
Who needs an Ankle Foot Orthotic (AFO)?
AFO’s are generally used in situations where less aggressive therapies have not resolved a patients complaint. It is very common for patients to be prescribed custom foot orthotics first to determine whether an AFO will be necessary. AFO’s are used in a very wide range of clinical situations. Some of the more common uses would include:
- Chronic ankle instability
- Neuromuscular problems (post stroke, etc.)
- Tendonitis of the ankle or heel
- Severe pain in the ankle or heel
- Collapse of the ankle or foot
- Arch pain
Do I need to wear my AFO’s all the time?
The conditions for which AFO’s are prescribed are often quite severe. It is very common to find that patients who need AFO’s are unable to walk comfortably (or at all) without them. Your health care provider will specifically instruct you regarding their proper use and care.
What will my new AFO’s feel like?
Custom made AFO’s will dramatically change the function of the foot and leg bones and muscles. As a result of these changes, patients will notice that things feel “different”. The exact sensations differ from patient to patients and from brace to brace. All AFO’s should be gradually “broken in” so that you are able to properly acclimate to the improved function of your lower extremity. Consult your health care practitioner for specific instructions for the care and use of the AFO’s.
What kind of shoes do I need for my AFO’s?
As a result of the design and materials used to fabricate a custom made AFO, shoe fit is sometimes challenging. It is generally recommended that an extra depth shoe be used to accommodate an AFO appliance. Today there are many different styles of fashion friendly footwear available to patients who are required to wear an AFO. Ask your practitioner for more information.