AFO stands for ankle-foot orthosis, a type of supportive brace often used for people who have difficulties with positioning or weakness of the feet and legs. I’m using it as an inclusive term to cover SMOs (supramalleolar orthosis, which are shorter) and KAFOs (knee ankle foot orthosis, which are even taller). Although specialty AFO shoes and AFO socks are not necessary, they make life easier and help protect delicate skin.
Nothing about having a medically complex child is frugal or cheap. As soon as an item is labeled “adaptive” or “medically necessary,” the price seems to double or triple. My daughter’s first birthday party theme was “million dollar baby”… because that’s what her first year of life cost. When it comes to your kid though, sometimes you just have to suck it up and pay for the specialized equipment and supplies.
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Billy Footwear – AFO shoes
Billy Footwear is hands down, the BEST shoe for any kind of foot braces. My 5-year-old is on her fifth pair of these easy-to-use AFO shoes – she currently has 4 pairs that fit because there are so many options. She has both high-tops and low-tops, as well as the Cozy Boot. Although the boots aren’t quite up to Montana winter standards (they need to be more insulated and waterproofed), they are a great option compared to everything else on the market.
The main selling point of Billy shoes is the zipper. Most shoes for AFOs involve shoving the foot into the shoe, but Billy Footwear‘s design makes everything easier. Simply unzip the shoe to insert the foot/brace & zip up.
The top of the shoe folds over completely when unzipped, so it’s very open and easy to get a foot in. The shoes also include laces, so you can change how tightly the shoes are on the foot (which is handy for AFOs with built-up soles or bulky buckles).
I recommend purchasing shoes after you have the AFOs in hand. Measure the AFO footbed and compare to the extensive sizing chart available here. Go up in size if necessary. AFOs are usually slightly longer than the foot, so measuring your child’s foot is not enough for purchasing Billy shoes.
These shoes would also be great for people with fine motor issues, whether it’s cerebral palsy or arthritis. They have cute styles too!
SmartKnit – AFO Socks
My daughter has gotten sores from the seams of regular socks rubbing on the side of her little toe while wearing her AFOs. Sores (typically) heal on their own, but that means days or weeks of not wearing AFOs. No AFOs means she can’t practice walking that entire time.
To help prevent future pain and a long break from walking, I invested in SmartKnit AFO socks. They are seamless and very soft, so rubbing is not an issue. The AFO version has rounded toes, to eliminate bunching in the braces.
The socks are basically a fabric tube, enclosed on one end. There’s no defined heel, so the socks can grow with a child’s foot. Longer wear made the cost a little easier to bear for me.
Buying SmartKnit socks on Amazon makes returns easier. The sizing can be a little tricky. My daughter has small feet, but even at 5 is still wearing the infant size sock.
Pants to go over AFOs
When my daughter had SMOs (that went just above her ankle), she could wear comfortable leggings. Her AFOs now go about half-way up her calf, and are too bulky for leggings to cover. I don’t want leggings to bunch up under the braces and possibly cause skin breakdown.
Lately, she’s been wearing jogger pants a lot. They look a little nicer than sweatpants, and the stretchy bottoms go over her AFOs. Some brands will even stretch over high-top AFO shoes.
My current favorites are from Cat & Jack at Target. They’re light-weight enough to wear most of the summer and super soft so she stays comfortable. I wish there were more color options, but at least she has pants!