Whether or not you enjoy shoe shopping, everyone deserves to find shoes that are comfortable and reflective of their personality. That includes anyone who routinely wears an AFO brace.
That sounds easy on paper. In practice, it can seem daunting, especially when all the options Orthotists steer you towards feeling bulky or unflattering.
So, how to find the right fit when shopping for shoes for AFOs?
AFOs: What Are They?
Let’s start by briefly discussing AFOs. Chances are, if you are wearing one, you know your way around the language. But if you are a family member or carer shopping for shoes for AFOs, understanding more about what they are may be helpful.
AFO stands for Ankle Foot Orthosis. It encompasses a range of supports, from leg braces to splints that help improve mobility or stability for the wearer.
AFOs offer support for people with various conditions, including but not limited to:
- Cerebral Palsy
- Foot Drop
- Multiple Sclerosis
Best Shoes for AFOs
So, that’s what an AFO is and how it helps the people who use one. But what are the best shoes for AFOs?
Here’s what we recommend.
Shoes for AFOs don’t have to be unflattering. Ably proving this point is FlyEase, a range of Nike shoes for AFOs.
The shoes put accessibility first. Consequently, they feature everything from hands-free step-ins to heels that unzip or pivot.
The shoe has a lightweight cushion that provides extra comfort and support for the wearer.
But the primary reason we consider Nike’s shoes for AFOs one of the best examples of accessible footwear available is that they allow your personality to show through in your shoes.
Too often shopping accessibly means shopping limited options. Nike FlyEase comes in a range of styles and colors. All are equally accessible and work well with AFOs, leg braces, and splints. They keep you comfortable and active, even as they offer a variety of shoe choices.
Keep in mind that different FlyEase styles work better with different AFOs. Some pair effectively with articulated AFOs.
For that reason, while it’s possible to order shoes online, it can be helpful to shop in person and consult an expert.
Chuck Taylor All-Star Converse
Surprisingly, one of the best shoes for AFOs is the Chuck Taylor All-Star Converse. That’s true of several styles, though which one works best varies depending on whether you need the best AFO shoes for adults or kids.
Unlike Nike, the All-Star doesn’t modify the shoe to make it accessible. It has several natural advantages that allow it to adapt to the particular mobility and stability needs of people who wear AFOs.
Converse has a wide toe that helps accommodate various AFOs. And the High Street model for adults offers a version with zippered sides, so you can easily step in and out of the shoe.
Another thing that helps with these shoes is lacing them partway up. That gives your foot stability but leaves enough space to accommodate a leg brace or splint.
The other reason Converse make excellent shoes for AFOs is that they are predominantly flat-soled. But they are thick and non-slip, which is imperative if balance and mobility are things you struggle with. Converse zipped, you can safely tackle many different floor surfaces while looking stylish but still getting the support you need from your shoes and AFO.
Hoka’s shoes are some of the best shoes for dropped foot braces.
They have thick rubber soles that provide support and improve balance. Additionally, the shoe uses breathable material that stops your foot from overheating even while wearing AFO socks and a dropped foot brace.
There’s a removable midsole offering extra support and shock absorption. However, if you need to replace it with a custom orthotic, it’s easy to remove.
The laces are primarily for show. Like any good, accessible shoe, Hoka emphasizes their slip-on ease.
Additionally, these shoes are designed to be wide and long, ensuring there is space for your brace and your foot.
Foamtreads Physician L Slipper
Adaptive footwear isn’t only for leaving the house. You also need shoes that accommodate a brace to navigate your home safely.
There are many shoes for AFO braces. However, we consider the Foamtreads Physician L Slipper one of the best AFO shoes for braces for adults.
Although this design targets women, Foamtreads does several styles of adaptive footwear for people of every gender and age.
Part of what makes Foamtreads stand out as the best shoes for AFo braces is the Velcro fastenings.
Velcro is an incredibly versatile material. Even better, it’s accessible. If your motor skills don’t extend to lacing, Velcro helps give you a secure, accessible fit.
The slipper is wide enough to accommodate an AFO brace and has a thick, well-cushioned sole for support. It also comes in a variety of colors, so you can still reflect some of your personality in your choice of shoe.
Crucially, they are comfortable when worn for extended periods with an AFO brace.
Shoes for AFO braces aren’t only for adults. Hatchback Quest’s vibrantly colored children’s sneakers are some of the best shoes for AFO braces available to kids.
They are full of personality, and the eye-catching colors are a hit with young kids especially.
But they are also wide, with a split tongue that makes them easy to step into.
Another reason Hatchback Quest makes some of the best shoes for AFO braces is that the outer and inner shoes have adjustable stretch panels. These help integrate AFO braces and splints into the shoe seamlessly.
There’s a thick rubber sole and supportive insole. Despite this combination, the shoes are lightweight, and kids often claim they forgot they had them on.
The shoe does have laces, but they are thick, and easier to work with than traditional models.
Tips and Tricks for Buying the Best Shoes for AFOs
So, those are some of the best shoes for AFOs. But what makes them stand out from ordinary shoes?
It’s a reasonable question, especially because not all of the shoes for AFOs we discussed went out of their way to be intentionally accessible.
Here’s what to look for when trying to find the right shoe to fit your AFO, brace, or splint.
Wide Toe Box
The best shoes for AFOs have a wide-toe box. That’s because you need to fit more than your foot into the shoe. You need to fit the shoe around your AFO, too.
And while you need the fit to be snug and supportive, you want the shoe to be comfortable too. If it’s too tight, it can cause other foot problems for you, like bunions.
Wide toe boxes give your foot and brace the space they need while still ensuring a good fit.
Removable Soles Are Crucial
Another vital thing to look for is soles with removable insoles.
Insoles are an excellent way of getting arch support, especially if you have high arches. But chances are that if you are shopping for shoes for AFOs, you have an orthotic insole you need to wear.
The ideal shoe has an insole you can remove without difficulty and replace with the one your doctor gave you.
Soles Should Be Flat – But Not too Flat
Support is another crucial component of what constitutes shoes for AFOs.
Many of the people who wear an AFO need extra support from their shoes. Some of them need a shoe that increases mobility.
Soles that do one or both of these things are imperative. The best sole for shoes with AFOs is an almost-flat sole.
Too much of a heel causes balance problems. Conversely, completely flat soles:
- Lack arch support
- Cause unsteadiness
- Have narrow toe boxes
Additionally, a completely flat sole risks foot problems like:
- Skeletal misalignment
- Ingrown toenails
Laces For Show, Not Fit
Another important aspect to consider when shopping for shoes for AFOs is their fastenings.
The best shoes for AFOs are accessible in all their particulars, including how you do them up since not everyone’s fine motor skills are equally proficient.
A good AFO shoe offers alternative fastenings, like side- or heel-based zippers, or Velcro straps.
Some shoes for AFOs do have laces, but when they do they are primarily decorative, not to secure the shoe to your foot.
You also want to pay attention to the kinds of laces on the shoes you consider. Keeping motor skills in mind, avoid thin, fiddly shoelaces unless you feel comfortable with them. If you don’t, stick to thicker laces, or see if the laces on the shoe you prefer are easily replaceable.
Size Up, But Not too Much
Since shoes for AFOs need to accommodate everything from drop foot braces to knee braces, a good rule of thumb is to buy one size bigger than your foot.
That allows you to choose a shoe that doesn’t cram your toes into the toe, even while it accommodates the brace.
However, you don’t want to size up too dramatically. The bigger the shoe, the less snuggly it fits. Even if you settle on a shoe with a non-slip sole, this can still cause problems because a shoe that is too big for your foot and brace allows your foot to move. That can lead to tripping and balance difficulties.
Best Shoes for AFOs: Final Thoughts
Finding the best shoes for AFOs can be tricky. A significant part of the search varies depending on the AFO you use. Shoes that work for drop foot may be less effective in accommodating knee or leg braces.
For that reason, it’s important that, when possible, you shop in person.
As you look for shoes for AFO, whether you search for adults or children, remember to consider:
- Sizing the shoe up a size
- Looking for alternative fastenings to shoelaces
And never underestimate the importance of a non-slip sole. They play a significant role in improving mobility and balance for people with AFOs.
Above all else, you need a shoe that represents you. Comfort is a vital part of what makes an AFO adaptive shoe suitable. And you’ll never feel truly comfortable in your shoes if you don’t feel like yourself.