Best Children’s Shoes for AFOs and SMOs – Top 5 Shoes for Every Occasion
I have noticed that many parents are struggling to find seasonal shoes that accommodate their children’s AFOs (ankle-foot orthoses) or SMOs (supramalleolar orthoses). While finding a pair of sneakers may be easier, it appears that finding appropriate seasonal shoes (boots, sandals, dress shoes, etc.) for their child becomes much more challenging.
I want to start by mentioning that the most important pair of footwear for a child who wears AFOs or SMOs is everyday sneakers. Children should wear sneakers most often with their ankle braces for them to be most effective and comfortable.
Also, it is not vital to buy expensive orthopedic shoes to accommodate your child’s ankle braces. There are regular shoes that will work well with your child’s AFOs and SMOs and I will help you find them!
Shoes and orthotics work together in treating your child’s foot condition. If your child is fit in the wrong pair of shoes, he or she will not receive many of the benefits the brace has to offer, even if you invest in a good pair of AFOs or SMOs.
I usually fit children who wear ankle braces in a shoe that is a whole size bigger than their actual foot size. Sometimes, I may try a shoe that is a whole and a half size bigger than the child’s foot size. However, I have never fitted a child’s AFOs or SMOs in a shoe that was bigger than a whole and a half size bigger than the child’s foot size.
Kindly note that if you are in a rush you can go directly to a list of children’s shoes for AFOs and SMOs.
Stop Getting Your Child’s Shoes Too Big to Accommodate their AFO
I know how exciting it must be when parents find a new shoe that seems to fit with their child’s AFOs or SMOs. However, if the shoe purchased is bigger than a whole and a half size (half an inch or 1.3 centimeters) larger than your child’s foot size, then the ankle brace is no longer able to help your child.
Your child’s shoes must be large enough to fit their orthotics but still snug enough to support your child’s feet. Remember that stability is one of the most important features your child’s shoes should provide when wearing AFOs or SMOs.
Use this shoe fitting service to determine exactly what shoe size you should order for your child’s AFOs.
Parent’s Favorite Shoe Brands for AFOs/SMOs
Some of the most popular shoe brands parents like for their children who wear ankle braces are BILLY Footwear, PLAE, ikiki, Converse, and New Balance. Nike also has a specific shoe style called the Nike Flyease that is supposed to work well with ankle braces; however, I do not recommend them.
I can tell you that not all of these shoe brands provide the correct type of shoes for a child who wears AFOs or SMOs.
For example, one of my go-to shoe brands for children who wear AFOs or SMOs is New Balance. However, this does not mean that all New Balance shoe types are appropriate for children who wear ankle braces. There are specific shoe styles within New Balance that work a lot better than others.
I believe that BILLY shoes are great, but they should be used as an alternative to your child’s everyday sneakers. BILLY shoes are great fashionable alternatives; I just recommend limiting their wear to no more than 4 hours a day.
Shoes with Zippers on the Sides – Are They Helpful?
I wanted to touch base on this topic because some parents assume that shoes with zippers better accommodate their children’s ankle braces than shoes without them. However, this is not always the case.
One example of this is the shoe brand BILLY Footwear, which provides “lace-up zip-on” shoes with zippers on their sides. BILLY Footwear is a popular choice for children who wear ankle braces as they manufacture fashionable and functional shoes for children.
However, my issue with providing children who wear AFOs with zippered shoes is the lack of lateral support they provide. The zippers definitely make it easier to slide the ankle braces inside a child’s shoes, but these shoes do not give the same level of support that other sneakers do.
What Makes the Shoes I Recommend Effective for AFOs/SMOs?
The shoes I recommend for children who wear ankle braces provide these 8 important features:
1️⃣ Substantial Outsoles: This feature provides a stable and supportive base for the medial arch and forefoot. Shoes with substantial outsoles help to minimize the impact your child’s feet feel when they come in contact with the ground and hold the AFO/SMO securely in place.
2️⃣ Straight Lasts: The “last” of a shoe (either curved or straight) determines the shoe’s overall shape. Shoes with straight last are ideal as they help keep feet in the correct position, which is especially important for a child who wears AFOs or SMOs.
3️⃣ Firm Heel Counter: This feature provides additional heel and ankle support as well as heel stabilization.
4️⃣ Flexible and Lightweight: The shoes must be supportive, but lightweight and flexible at the same time to prevent your child’s feet and legs from easily getting tired.
5️⃣ Shoelaces: While I understand how tiring it can be for parents to constantly be retying their children’s shoes, especially when a child is learning how to tie them, shoes with shoelaces are always ideal. Shoelaces will allow your child to receive the full support of their shoes and orthotics, improving your child’s overall stability.
6️⃣ Round Toe-Boxes: This feature helps prevent the front part of the AFO from destroying the front part of the shoes.
7️⃣ Wider Opening for Easy On & Off: This feature allows parents to easily slide the AFO inside the shoes so they don’t have to struggle every time they have to put on the AFOs.
8️⃣ Removable Insoles: By removing the original insoles of the shoes you will allow for extra room for the AFOs.
Let’s now take a look at the best children’s shoes (everyday and seasonal shoes) for AFOs and SMOs. Disclosure: Some links in this post may be affiliate links and we may receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you) when you click our links and make purchases.
Best Children’s Shoes for AFOs and SMOs
These are all shoes that I recommend and have fitted children who wear ankle braces in before, so I know they work well with AFOs and SMOs. Take a look at the description below each shoe image to check what size range that specific shoe style can fit.
As they are the most important piece of footwear for children to wear with their AFOs/SMOs, I wanted to start by recommending the best everyday sneakers your child can wear. These sneakers are available in different widths such as Medium (M), Wide (W), and Extra Wide (XW). wide width.
Also, I highly recommend that you remove the original insoles of the sneakers and apply this specific shoe lacing technique (if you choose a shoe with laces) to best fit your child’s AFOs.
When it comes to summer shoes you should consult your medical professional to see whether your child needs to wear their ankle braces when going to the beach. I mention this because if your child is stable enough, there is no reason why they shouldn’t be able to spend a couple of hours at the beach without wearing the AFOs/SMOs.
With that said, I have found specific sandal styles that are capable of accommodating ankle braces. You will likely need a Velcro extension for the open-toed sandals below.
For boots, I also recommend consulting your medical professional to see whether your child needs to wear their ankle braces all of the time. If your child is stable enough, they can also likely go a couple of hours walking in the rain or snow without their AFOs/SMOs.
The school shoes below are available in medium (M), wide (W), and extra wide (XW) widths.
The dress shoes below are available in medium (M), wide (W), and extra wide (XW) widths.
Looking for Other Boot Recommendations? – Get a Personalized Suggestion
Do not hesitate to contact me if you are having trouble finding a pair of shoes to accommodate your child’s AFOs/SMOs:
Let me know in the comment section below if you have found a specific shoe brand or shoe style that worked well for your child’s AFOs. Other families will benefit from learning about your experiences!