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Many different orthotics braces provide support and help heal different parts of the body. Some of them are necessary to wear after various surgeries, while others support certain joints permanently.

AFOs, or ankle-foot orthoses, are some of the most commonly-used braces. They come in different shapes and sizes and can be very beneficial in numerous situations. Let’s see what they are, when you can benefit from them, and how to use them properly.

What Is an AFO?

An AFO, as the name suggests, is a type of orthotics brace that provides support to the foot and ankle.

It’s a plastic splint that stabilizes the ankle and foot to keep them in a proper, aligned position. By keeping them firmly in place, it enables accurate and comfortable walking. In doing so, it promotes healing and helps treat various health conditions.

What Are AFO Braces Used for?

AFO braces are mostly used to treat various musculoskeletal and neurological disorders. However, many doctors also prescribe them after ankle or foot surgeries. They can provide ideal support to weakened muscles and joints.

Some of the conditions that AFOs can help treat include:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Spina bifida
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • ALS
  • Foot drop
  • Foot or ankle injury

​No matter the reason for wearing an AFO, it ultimately helps correct the foot and ankle position. By aligning them into a proper position, it also dramatically reduces pain.

What Types of AFOs Are There?

There are lots of different AFOs, each designed to treat a different health condition. Some provide just enough support to enable fast healing, while others don’t allow much mobility. It all comes down to the severity of an injury or disorder.

The most common types of AFOs include:

  • Solid ankle-foot orthosis
  • Hinged ankle-foot orthosis
  • Dynamic ankle-foot orthosis

Solid ankle-foot orthosis fully stabilizes the ankle and foot to ensure no mobility. It’s beneficial when there’s excessive pronation of the foot, or when the heel is inverted or everted.

​Hinged ankle-foot orthosis stabilizes the foot, but enables the ankle to move freely. They’re useful in treating adult-acquired flatfoot, or PTTD (posterior tibial tendon dysfunction).

​Dynamic ankle-foot orthosis provides the most mobility. DAFO braces are very thin, lightweight, and flexible, and they help adults with spasms or paralysis in the ankle and foot area. They also help improve mobility in children with clubfoot, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, and muscular dystrophy.

Do You Need to Wear Your AFO All Day?

No matter the condition, you’ll probably need to wear your AFO almost all the time. After all, its purpose is to help you heal. So, the more you wear it, the sooner you’ll feel better.

Depending on your situation, you may need to wear it only for a couple of hours a day. However, not removing it even at night might help you heal faster.

Your orthotist will tell you when and for how long to wear your AFO, so make sure you strictly follow their advice. 

You certainly know that you’ll feel quite uncomfortable at first, and that’s completely normal. That’s also why there’s an adjustment schedule that you should follow for the first several days.

On the first day, wear it for about an hour. On the second day, add another hour at most. On the third day, you should be able to wear it comfortably for about 3-4 hours.

You get the gist. Wear it about an hour longer each next day, and you’ll soon forget all about any discomfort.

Don’t worry if you notice red marks on the skin. That’s also perfectly normal. Just as you’re breaking in the brace, your skin is also getting used to the plastic.

The redness should disappear as soon as you remove the brace. But if blisters start appearing, be sure to get in touch with your orthotist. It’s nothing serious; your brace just might need some adjusting.

Do You Need Special Shoes?

You don’t need any kind of special shoes, but you need bigger shoes that’ll fit your AFO. It simply can’t fit in your regular shoes. One or two sizes bigger than what you generally wear will do the trick.

Your best bet will be to go with shoes with laces, as you can control how tight they are. Of course, you need to wear flat shoes. Even the lowest heels would make your brace completely ineffective.

How to Properly Clean Your AFO

You should regularly clean your AFO. After all, you’ll be wearing it almost all the time, so you’ll need to keep various bacteria away.

Since it’s made of plastic, it’s incredibly simple to maintain it – you only need soap and water.

Use a damp cloth to wipe it, and let it dry naturally. Don’t use any kind of heat to dry it, as you may damage the plastic.

Get a Custom AFO Brace at Align Clinic

Here at Align Clinic, we design a wide range of custom braces for both children and adults. No matter what medical condition you’re dealing with, our orthotics can help you treat it effectively.

If you need any kind of ankle-foot orthoses, don’t hesitate to give us a call. Schedule a consultation with one of our expert orthotists, and we’ll devise the best treatment plan for you.

We’ll also provide you with all the tips and advice for adequately wearing and maintaining your AFO. In case you need any adjustments in the future, we’ll handle that anytime.

Feel free to contact us for any questions you may have about our AFOs, or any other orthotics bracing. Contact us anytime to schedule your free consultation.