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Foot drop is a common symptom that could result from an injury or a serious condition like cerebral palsy, ALS, and other motor-neuron diseases. Usually, it warrants many exercise sessions at a physiotherapist or an orthopedic professional’s place.

But now, a one-stop solution has emerged for all such problems – wearing a foot-drop brace a.k.a. an AFO anklebrace.

Nearly 26% of orthosis users prefer an AFO over any other aid. These braces are finding so many takers due to factors such as convenience, adaptability, and availability.

Before you get one of them for your needs, read till the end to understand what it takes to use an AFO.​

What Is an AFO?

An ankle-foot orthosis (AFO) is a medical device that can provide timely relief when treating foot problems. 

Its unique L-shaped design facilitates healing in foot drop cases and manages contracture where there is a plantar fasciitis condition. The device is fitted on the leg to stabilize the region below the calf while providing ample room for toe clearance.

AFO ankle braces are usually custom-molded according to the user’s needs, but they are available as an off-the-shelf item too. There are different types of AFOs that cater to specific kind of users – 

Plastic Brace

  • Has a broad use-case and provides options to adjust the lateral stability
  • The plastic used in these AFOs can be molded quickly using heat 
  • Economical, easy to adjust, and can come in handy for short-term users

Swedish Brace

  • Considered to be more comfortable for allowing additional airflow with an open calf and heel design
  • Ideal for those who are moderately active since it can fit into a shoe easily and can be heat-molded or trimmed
  • Offers comparatively lesser lateral stability

Carbon Fiber Brace

  • The best option for stabilizing the normal gait patterns of users
  • Semi-flexible in nature and has a design that prevents pressure sores
  • Flexible diameter and tibial bands offer solutions to calf muscles of various sizes
  • Ideal for those who have ankle stabilities and prefer sleek designs

Best Practices for AFO Users

Below are some of the best practices you should be aware of when using an AFO.

1. Choose Wisely
A number of factors like shape, size, material, and nature of use come into play. If you have never used an AFO anklebrace and aren’t feeling comfortable with one, your best bet would be to choose one that can be modified easily.

Many a time, AFOs are designed to be a replacement for your footwear. So, pick one that is light and thin if you want to wear shoes along with the brace. 

Additionally, you might want to get one that has replaceable parts so that you don’t have to change the AFO instead of getting it repaired.

2. Follow a Routine
Whether you like wearing them or not, stick to the directions given by the physician. Doing so will aid the recovery process and help you get rid of them sooner. Remember that swellings, blisters, and redness in the ankle are commonly observed side effects in the initial days.

Don’t wear it for more than a few hours in the first week, and once you get used to it, stick to the same pair of shoes while using the brace. 

On the off chance that you’re finding it difficult to adjust to them, try to phase it out of your life slowly. Going cold turkey would only make matters worse, especially if you have been using them for a while.​


3. Avoid Possible Risks
There is an ongoing debate about the perks and perils of using an AFO or a WalkAide device. While there is nothing conclusive to suggest that either is bad, it‘s always better to understand the risks of using a brace. 

4. Don’t Rely On Them Excessively
This might sound a little counterintuitive, but using AFOs for prolonged periods can make you more dependent on the braces. It might give you relief in the short-term, but there is no point in clinging to it forever.

After a few weeks of usage, try to make incremental movements without the brace and check if your legs are cooperating with you. This will ensure that your nerves are receptive, and you can eventually regain control over your foot. 

5. Maintain Them
​Irrespective of the make and model of your AFO, it will experience wear and tear. To control the damage, ensure that the parts are in good health and get it checked in a timely manner.

As a rule of thumb, clean the brace and its inner lining regularly to remove any bacteria and dirt accumulation.

You can eliminate all odors by using an alcohol-based spray, but do not subject it to hot water or any harsh cleaning agent.


In some cases, existing conditions like skin allergies and bone deformities might prevent you from making the best use of AFOs. 

Your best bet is to talk to other AFO users and your physician to find out what can be done in your case. 

If nothing works, you can try a KAFO brace that offers additional stability to your knee. Head to our previous blog post to find out more – here.