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Custom AFO: Expectation vs Reality

Custom AFO: Expectation vs Reality

AFO stands for “ankle-foot orthosis” and can be the difference-maker in many patients lives. While some patients have never considered AFO bracing before, others have done some research and come up with more questions than answers. For example, some people expect that the brace is going to be extremely bulky and obvious. That’s not generally the case. The reality is that usually you can’t see it under most pants.

Let’s knock out some other common AFO questions.

What Does An AFO Do?

An AFO is a custom-made medical device that decreases pain and lets the wearer improve their gait. They help with multiple conditions including;

  • PTTD
  • Cavus foot
  • Post polio
  • Instability
  • Fall risk

Why Not Just Have The Issue Surgically Corrected?

AFO’s can be a conservative way to keep the foot in alignment and functional for patients who have to be on their feet or are losing their walking ability.

Many patients assume that surgery is the only option or that they will just have to “live with it.”

What Can I Expect The AFO To Do For Me?

Many patients enjoy decreased pain and increased longevity of activity with their custom AFO. These braces help the foot and ankle walk in a more corrected position.

Take this patient’s experience for example:

A young guy that works at Toyota came into the clinic thinking that he was just working “too long on his feet.”

He states that he had gotten new steel toe boots and even new athletic shoes for at home. Nothing was working.

Upon examination, he clearly had PTTD (posterior tibial tendon dysfunction). This is a condition that most people think is just flat feet,  but it also involves the soft tissue…which can make the pain and deformity worse.

He was young and very frustrated. He could not understand what he had done wrong.

He told me that he really liked his job and he would like to continue working the job, so we casted him two AFO’s for the PTTD.

The patient states his pain was completely gone unless he over did it without his braces on.

There ARE also surgical treatments for this condition, but this patient did not want surgery due to being off of work for such a long period of time.

Will The Braces Fit In My Shoes?

One of the hardest things any patient has to deal with due to getting AFO’s is the shoegear. Not just any shoes will accommodate these braces. For this patient, he had to try on several steel toe boot styles, but he did find a pair that fit just right.

At Lexington Podiatry we have an orthotist and CPED who help our patients, not only with a good brace-fit, but also with shoe fit and shoe options.

It tends to be harder for women who wear AFO’s to find shoes they like. The good news on this front is that the AFO’s are not glued to the patient, so if there is a special occasion for a couple of hours, the patient does not HAVE to wear their brace.

Can You Drive With The AFO On?

Almost all patients can drive with an AFO on, but it does take practice at first. We have the patient work on just wearing the brace and getting comfortable, then walking, driving, and finally exercising.

Can I Order An AFO Brace On Amazon? 

AFO’s are custom devices made from a mold of YOUR foot and ankle.

This is not a device that one can order on the internet or Amazon. Everything about this product is custom! The reason it is custom is because the brace needs to be so specific for the patient’s deformity. There is not one foot that is the same as another. The custom aspect of these braces is what makes them so successful for patients.

If you think that your life or the life of someone you love could be improved with an AFO, contact Lexington Podiatry for an evaluation.

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