The following blog will be helpful in order for you to understand some of the details involved with AFOs (Ankle Foot Orthoses). Rinella Orthotics, Inc. has created this blog to help everyone interested in our topics. However, if you live in Chicago and its suburbs, this is how we can help you obtain your AFO. (815-717-8970 is our number for those people interested in getting an AFO).
1.) AFO Alternatives
Here are two pictures of different AFO alternatives.
Each of them is an AFO that we have made for patients. However, if you look at the photos, you will notice that there are variations at the ankle joint, besides the obvious difference of color of the brace. We will cover AFO alternatives more in other blog posts, but we will definitely give you some good information here.
A person can be provided with a custom or prefabricated AFO. This is one main difference. On the whole, we recommend that people get a custom AFO. Why? Not because a prefabricated AFO is bad, but a custom AFO will be made to your exact size and shape. In other words, your heel size and shape, arch height, forefoot shape and width are all individualized! So, it would be ideal for you to get a brace to match these dimensions as much as possible. There have been times in the past that a person with a prefabricated AFO came to us and said they wished they would have gotten a custom AFO for these very reasons.
Some AFOs have joints. Others do not. One is not better than the other, they are just different based on personal necessity. Moreover, there are different names to identify styles of AFOs, such as : flexible, semi rigid, rigid, solid, pre-articulated, articulated and floor reaction AFOs. It is not hard to understand the general differences, but in sum we will tell you that a “flexible” has the least amount of plastic at the ankle and a solid (pre-articulated, articulated and floor reaction) AFO probably has the most. This means that more support is available, based upon the person’s need. “Articulated”, in the world of bracing, means that an AFO will have a hinge.
2.) AFO Accessories
There are a few different styles of accessories that can go with an AFO. The biggest accessory that we could think of is probably the style of ankle joints you could get. Or the color, for example. Typical colors are beige, white, black and opaque. Accessories like in the world of shopping do not apply here, unless the AFO is for a child and they want to apply stickers.
When it comes to ankle joints, some of them help lift the foot up. This is referred to as a dorsi-assist joint. Other ankle joints are called “free motion”. This means that it is not trying to lift your foot when you walk. It is there more to connect the upper and lower sections of the AFO, allow movement and help promote improved side to side balance.
3.) AFO Brace & Shoes
This is actually a bigger topic than you might think. The reason why is that an AFO should always go inside of a shoe when your foot is on the ground. Period. The reason why is that AFOs are typically made of plastic. So, if you have not guessed already, you know that walking on plastic is not ideal, especially if you have impaired gait. So, as a result, people need to find a shoe that will accommodate an AFO. This is actually not that hard to do. Just don’t try to force it into extra tight work shoes or high heels.
If you work with an orthotist, they will show you some tricks to get it into your current shoe wear. – What we tell people is to bring in 2-3 pairs of their most commonly used shoes and we will work with them. An orthotist (AFO brace maker / provider) can never guarantee your current shoe choices will work, but often times we have very good luck!
Remember, do not just go to the shoe store and buy a pair of shoes that is 1.5 sizes too big. The best thing you can do, if you are going to buy new shoes for your AFO is to bring the brace with you to the shoe store and to try them on when you get there, with the brace. This takes out the guess work.
4.) AFO Brace & Driving
This is a tricky one. When in doubt, do not do it. However, an argument can be made if you drive with your right foot to operate the pedals and you utilize a left AFO. The problem with an AFO and driving is that it can limit your plantar and dorsiflexion. This means that it will limit the way you raise and lower your foot. So, what can help you during walking, can inhibit your ability to drive. Chances are high that nobody in the car will be there telling you what to do with your AFO. However, we strongly advise caution and consulting your physician about this topic as well.
*The following information is health related. It is not medical advice because each person and each AFO are different.
Rinella Orthotics, Inc. has provided patients with all types of AFOs and we can help you too. We are currently located in Will County, but we do service patients in Chicago and all of its suburbs. Give us a call today if you wish to have a free consultation at 815-717-8970.
Visit us online at http://rinella-op.com
Check out our video testimonials on the site. Kathy and Bill will tell you about their experiences with AFOs.