AFO’s are like buying jeans

This past summer, I began the hunt for the right AFO (ankle foot orthosis) as it was time to give into my worsening foot drop. It was by all means a huge step emotionally and physically, as this was the first big leap realizing I needed to become more proactive toward my health. It’s not easy realizing you now need to be dependent on an assistive device. I feel like once you start, more and more add up and soon your independence is ripped out from underneath you. I guess it comes with the territory. But honestly, if something will allow me to walk that much further, then why not. Time to suck up the pride and buy it. Baby steps. It’s just baby steps.

This was all new territory for me, so I want to let you guys know some reputable companies and the AFO’s I bought. I don’t want anyone to feel like I did: lost and confused about brands and colors. Feel free to offer suggestions as well as your brand preference.

AFO’s are like buying jeans–not one brand can fit everyone. So it’s necessary to find the right one for you.

Here is from my research.
There are many options: carbon fiber, plastic, and fabric.
I chose the carbon fiber as they are more durable than the plastic and sturdier than fabric.

For carbon fiber, there is a variety of sturdiness you can choose from – from very flexible to rigid, depending on your needs. I went with very flexible, as I still have an active lifestyle. The rigid ones were too restrictive and hard on my shins. Plastic are custom made and molded to your foot.

Brands: Top brand names include Ossur and Allard – but there are so many others.

Location: Come up the front, back or side. I can’t wear the ones that come up the front because the hard carbon fiber rubbed against my shin/tibia and gave me blisters.

You have to order them through an orthopedist, which means you need a prescription from a doctor. Also, this gives you the eligibility for insurance discounts.

Once you go in to see an orthopedist, ask to try on a pair. There is a small chance they have a few brands in your size. Most will let you take them home for a day to let you test them out.

My AFO’s are made by EuroSports Medicine brand name Pero-Max. The brace rides up the posterior and inserts into shoes.

*For those of you needing just a little bit of help lifting a foot and AFOs are in your future, X-strap was very helpful and the lift was mild, but helpful, before I needed a little extra oomph. The owner is also super nice.*

Pros of AFO’s: Less tripping=less falls=less concussions=less hospital visits=happy Carden and a less worried family. Being able to walk further for longer. Walking up stairs is easier. My gait is more fluid. Less overcompensation. Tire less frequently throughout the day. Better stability.

Cons of AFO’s: Can limit range of motion and this takes time to get used to. Blisters and calluses will be your archenemy but a necessary evil. At first they are very uncomfortable, but with time, you get used to them. I noticed my calf muscles have atrophied more since I am not using the muscles, as the AFO is doing all the work. You will need to stretch/do some exercises daily to keep the muscle around. Driving a vehicle takes time to get used to, as you have to press down even harder to overcompensate for the lift the AFO is giving. Walking down stairs/hills is a lot different and takes time to get used to since your ability to flex is non-existent. It takes a few extra minutes putting them on in the morning. Finding the right shoe to fit them is a bitch no lie, but Steve Madden men’s boots have worked wonders for me.

Sorry for the colorful peeps – carbon fiber only comes in black/tan/white. Maybe some fashion designer wants to take up making AFO’s appealing to the eyes. Being able to change the color with your outfit would be kinda cool – just sayin’.

Seems like a lot of negative, but all this being said, the pros definitely outweigh the cons.

Be prepared to break at least one or four pairs. Be prepared to spend hours trying on different types until your find your Goldilocks. Be prepared to wait weeks before receiving your order. Be prepared to get used to the alien attached to your body. Be prepared to spend 15 minutes every morning in the first few weeks figuring out how to put them on with shoes. Be prepared to throw them across the room in frustration a few times. Be prepared to accept a device that will help you tremendously.

Only the cool kids gets to wear them…duh.

Warning: Happiness from being able to walk further and more fluently may be contagious. Proceed at your own risk.