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AFO or ankle-foot orthosis is recommended for various conditions that affect the lower extremities. No matter if a person has a disease or an injury, AFO can be used to treat it. But most people don’t understand what these devices are or how they are used.

Simply put, if your physician recommends ankle-foot orthosis, you won’t have enough knowledge to decide whether you should get one. There are many different reasons why an AFO might be recommended. 

This L-shaped device becomes the patient’s permanent companion. It affects their lives in many ways. It can take some time to adjust to wearing one. Here’s what to expect.

What is an AFO? ​

Ankle foot orthosis is a custom-built brace that is always worn on the foot or lower leg. It surrounds the foot and controls how much the ankle and the foot can move. At the same time, it keeps both of them in a natural position to help the patient walk or stand. 

AFOs are known for their L-shaped design, and they are meant to be used for protecting the foot while it’s healing. It keeps the foot safe and comfortable in case of foot, ankle, or heel injuries. On the other hand, they can also help people with foot drop issues or help with conditions like plantar fasciitis. 

There are two main designs of AFO orthotics. Some of them have a hinge or a joint located at the ankle, allowing movement. On the other hand, some are entirely fixed. These devices can be worn on both feet or a single foot.

Main Reasons Why AFOs Are Prescribed ​

Ankle foot orthosis is designed to control the amount of motion of an ankle and foot while keeping them in an optimal position. In general, they can correct the place in which the foot, joints, and muscles are, but can also be used to support weakened limbs. 
Here are some of the main reasons why doctors prescribe these medical devices: 

  • For reducing pain; 
  • To prevent the patient from falling; 
  • For additional support weakened muscles need;
  • To ensure the ankle and the foot are in a correct position; 
  • To help the patient walk easily;
  • For added protection against exterior blows; 

​These devices are used in 26% of orthosis cases in the US. This makes them the most commonly used orthosis option. At the same time, there is more research coming out every year about their use.

The Shoes People Can Wear With AFOs ​

The first thing everyone should know is that AFO should never touch the skin. This can cause irritation, lesions, and pain, which is something everyone wants to prevent. This is why it’s crucial to wear thicker cotton socks underneath the device. 

If you don’t have any, consider wearing tights. Make sure to pull them up properly so that there are no wrinkles. To make sure the device is working correctly, the patient needs to wear adequate footwear. First of all, make sure that the footwear is large enough and has room for the AFO.

This doesn’t mean that you need any special shoes. You can wear anything you would regularly just as long as there is enough room to fit the device without being too tight. The best way to know whether your shoes are suitable for this use is to test them. 

When going to the store, try out shoes along with the AFO. Wearing AFO without shoes isn’t recommended as it can be very slippery.

How to Put on an AFO ​

Here are the steps on how to put on an AFO to ensure its use is effective: 

  • Before everything else you should make the AFO is unstrapped; 
  • Sit down and bend your knee and hip at 90 degrees;
  • Put on socks and make sure they aren’t wrinkly;
  • Bring your foot inwards and then up towards the knee; 
  • Put your heel on the backside of the AFO and secure the strap. Make sure it’s tight enough so that your foot is secure, but don’t stop your blood flow. You can test it by lifting your toes. Make sure there’s no room between the AFO and the heel;
  • Then tighten up the upper strap and also make sure that it isn’t too tight; 
  • The last step is to put on the shoe over your AFO and the foot.

There you go. This is the whole process of putting on an AFO. You will learn how to do it in a couple of days, and there’s nothing complicated about it.

You Can’t Wear Your AFO All Day

No matter what kind of device you are getting, you can’t wear it all the time. Your body simply needs to get used to it. This means that you will feel discomfort at the start. In general, you should start slow and increase the amount of time you spend wearing it per day. 

  1. Maximum of 60 minutes 
  2. 60 to 120 minutes 
  3. From 2 to 4 hours 
  4. 4 to 6 hours 
  5. As much as recommended by the doctor

​Listen to your orthotist, as he or she will give you suggestions on how often you should wear the device. Conditions and patients are different, and they will react differently to the device.

Caring For Your AFO and Skin ​

Always keep the AFO clean. Wipe it with a damp cloth, don’t leave it in direct sunlight, check for damages,  and, if possible, avoid wearing it in the rain. Make sure that the straps are working correctly and check if the straps are working at all times. 

As far as skincare goes, you need to check what is happening underneath your sock every time you take the device off. If you have pain or red areas that won’t go away even half an hour after you’ve removed the device, make sure to contact your orthotic specialist.

Bottom Line

In the end, remember to ask your physician as much as possible about wearing the ankle-foot orthosis. Get as many suggestions as possible so that you can use the device to its full potential while keeping yourself healthy. ​