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It provides external support to the foot and helps resolve numerous deformities in pediatrics. 
This article is for anyone who’s new to the world of foot orthoses. We’ve been making orthoses and training patients in using them for many years now and here’s the information we share with patients and parents during our preliminary meetings. 
1. What Is DAFO?
The dynamic ankle-foot orthosis is a modification of the rigid AFO
Its working mechanism is different from the classic version in the sense that it gives you more freedom to move hence you have more active muscle training while staying in a safe range of ankle motion.
The DAFO brace is made of a thin and flexible thermoplastic material that is strong enough to support the body weight and also to provide control to the foot to maintain neutral alignment. 
You can get a custom-fitted DAFO or one off-the-shelve. The cost of the two versions will vary and you won’t always get your preferred designs or graphics on the prefabricated one.  
2. Who Is the DAFO Brace For? 
The DAFO is for people- adults and kids alike- who need extra support maintaining the correct posture of their feet and ankle. Although the AFO does the same thing, the dynamic brace is for such candidates who need minimal support.
Some more indications for prescribing a DAFO include: 

  1. Equinus gait i.e. toe walking due to a problem with the Achilles tendon. 
  2. Plantar flexed ankle i.e. foot pointing downwards due to muscle weakness or injury. 
  3. Clubfoot i.e. the foot is turned inwards at birth. The DAFO brace is used at a later stage of rehab when only slight passive support is needed to keep the foot in neutral alignment. 
  4. Kids with cerebral palsy or spina bifida who suffer from muscle strength deficiencies due to neurological compromise. 
  5. Active kids with a crouched gait who lack ankle stability due to muscle weakness. 

Far fewer adults use the DAFO as compared to kids. And that’s because younger patients have a higher chance of recovery and thus are the target patient population for foot orthoses. 
However, that doesn’t mean adults can’t benefit from these at all. DAFOs for adults are mostly prescribed to provide additional external support during walking after injury or surgery. 
It’s used by the elderly suffering from degenerative joint conditions, drop foot and ankle instability. 
The muscle weakness in old age makes the ankle vulnerable to twisting injuries, especially while walking on uneven surfaces. The orthosis provides ease of mind to the elderly and improves their confidence in walking independently.  
3. Benefits of DAFO 
The DAFO brace is helpful not only in walking but also in preventing contractures and supporting the ankle and surrounding structures during rest. Here’re some benefits of dynamic ankle orthosis:  

  1. Improves sensory input on the plantar surface [sole of the feet].
  2. Provides a steady base of support.
  3. Improves efficiency in walking especially in foot clearance during the swing phase.
  4. Reduces side effects of the deformity on the other body regions that compensate for faulty balance such as the hips and the lower back. 
  5. DAFO offers more functional independence. 
  6. Corrects muscle imbalances to some extent. 
  7. Reduces the fall of risk while standing and walking independently. 

It has a psychological effect as well as it motivates kids to walk on their own knowing that they won’t fall or lose balance when the DAFO is there to support the ankle. 
That facilitates skill training sessions with the physical therapists because it increases active patient participation. 
4. Complications of DAFO
The dynamic AFO comes with some avoidable complications and side effects along with the many benefits. Faulty and ill-fitting orthosis are the primary culprits of causing complications. That’s why you should never use lower quality orthosis. 
Some common complications include: 

  1. Increased soreness around the big toe or the ankle joint. 
  2. Altered biomechanics and postural changes due to a lack of orthosis training with a professional Orthotist. 
  3. Pain in the heel. 
  4. Increasing the pressure on the foot by wearing the wrong shoes that aren’t suited to be worn with an orthosis. 
  5. Overheating and skin issues while wearing the orthosis. 

You’ve got to replace the orthosis according to the timetable your Orthotist gives you. Otherwise, you’ll be dealing with various side effects that’ll reduce the benefits of the dynamic AFO.  
You should contact your Orthotist’s clinic at once if you face any complications and they’ll help you sort out the issues. 
5. How’s the DAFO Brace Different From a Rigid AFO?
Since the dynamic AFO and the rigid AFO [R-AFO] cover the same regions of the leg, it’s good to know how the two are different. 
The R-AFO improves balance and provides excellent support by holding the ankle in one position and not giving room for any motion. 
But not all patients need the same level of stability and so a DAFO fixes this issue with its flexible nature by allowing sufficient movements while also providing necessary support. 
The various types of AFO are prescribed for different conditions and the expected outcomes also vary. 
Duration for adjustment to the orthosis, training styles and the effects on your body are also different for the DAFO brace and the R-AFO. 
Reach Out to Our DAFO Experts 
Getting a well-fitted DAFO brace for yourself or your kid doesn’t have to be a difficult process. You just need to find the right team that’ll take care of all the technical aspects of it and train you to properly use the orthosis. 
We’ve got several clinics all over the USA with certified Orthotists in each one. You can book an appointment or walk into our office near you to get a consultation for your dynamic orthosis.  
With years of experience in dealing with patients of all ages and conditions, we’re sure that we can help you with whatever you need related to orthosis and prosthetics.