Your Guide To Ankle-Foot Orthotics

If you have or are about to receive an ankle-foot orthosis, or an AFO for short, you might have a few questions about what happens next. AFOs are the most common type of orthotic devices, and they aren’t as complicated as some other orthotics. They do require some basic care, but they’re some of the most low maintenance devices.

The Different Kinds Of Ankle-Foot Orthotics

Plastic AFO

There are three main kinds of AFOs. The most common type is plastic, but there are also carbon fiber and Swedish AFOs. The type can be selected based on the needs of the patient or the patient’s personal preference, although the majority of patients will find that regular plastic AFOs work out perfectly.

Plastic AFOs are easy to tailor. They’re molded with head to create a perfect custom fit that will address the patient’s measurements and needs. They can be made larger, and are more lightweight than carbon fiber AFOs. Their cost and durability makes them perfect for short term solutions, although you can always have a second plastic AFO created if you feel your initial plastic AFO should be replaced after extensive use.

Swedish AFOs are also made of plastic, but they’re constructed differently. They’re designed in a way that maximizes airflow, which makes them the best choice for lightly active patients who want to wear their device during physical activity outside of day to day walking. The heel and the calf of a Swedish AFO is left open, creating an ideal fit within an athletic shoe.

Carbon Fiber AFOs are slightly flexible in the foot and calf areas, designed to accommodate a natural gait. They’re made with stability and strength in mind. They offer a low profile and are typically lightweight. This is the kind of AFO a highly active person might prefer. Carbon Fiber AFOs can be created for medial or lateral strut support, depending on the patient’s needs.

How To Wear Ankle-Foot Orthotics

Carbon Fiber AFO

The majority of AFOs need to be worn with shoes that are adjustable, such as Velcro shoes or shoes with traditional laces. You’ll need a little more room to be able to wear the shoe comfortably. It sometimes helps to wear a sock underneath the brace to prevent friction against your skin. The sock will also absorb any sweat, making the AFO more comfortable for long term wear.

When wearing your brace, it’s important to take note of any discomfort you may feel. It’s normal for the brace to feel slightly unusual during the adjustment period, but the brace shouldn’t be causing you pain. Patients with diabetes are prone to swelling in the ankles and feet. If the AFO causes redness or surface marks on your skin to appear, take it off and speak to a medical professional.

Your medical professional and AFO provider will likely come together to create a plan for you. In most cases, you won’t start off wearing your AFO for prolonged periods. You will typically be eased in to full time wear if that’s what’s necessary, but it might take you a while to get there. Over a period of two weeks or so, you’ll begin to wear the AFO for longer and longer periods until your body adjusts to it.

Take care not to wear your AFO for longer than you’ve been directed to. Always follow the professional advice you receive, even if your AFO still feels comfortable when the time comes to take it off for the day. If you believe you’re ready to wear it full time ahead of schedule, bring it up at your next appointment or check-in.

How To Care For Ankle-Foot Orthotics

AFOs are easy to clean. They can be wiped down with rubbing alcohol which will sanitize the material and quickly evaporate, leaving the device clean and dry. Some AFOs have metal joints or components that need to be cleaned, and may also need to be lubricated.

The orthotist will be able to tell you what kind of lubricant (if any) you should be using. It’s easy to apply, and it only needs to be done when it feels like the metal is no longer moving smoothly. If you’re uncomfortable doing it yourself, your orthotist may be able to do it for you.

Adjusting Ankle-Foot Orthotics

Your AFO may need adjustments. It’s sometimes difficult to determine a perfect fit without a little bit of retooling, especially in special circumstances. If you feel as though your AFO needs adjustment, don’t attempt to do it yourself. You can irreparably damage your AFO, reduce its efficiency, or hinder your progress by adjusting in independently.

If your orthotist recognizes that your AFO needs adjustment, he or she will do it for you. If you believe it needs adjustment, you can speak to your orthotist about your concerns. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of getting used to them. It’s perfectly naturally for them to feel slightly funny at first, but after a while, that feeling will go away.

Please call Tony Martin Limb & Brace today for your free consultation.