Best New Balance Shoes for Kids Who Wear AFOs

Are you having the hardest time finding shoes that can accommodate your child’s AFOs (ankle foot orthosis)? Have you been told to get New Balance shoes in extra wide (XW) and increase your child’s shoe size by a whole size or two sizes bigger? Before you start ordering New Balance shoes in extra wide widths you should know that not all shoes in extra wide are capable of accommodating AFOs. The New Balance kids’ shoe line is quite extensive, and not all models work well with AFOs. Let me show you a list of the best New Balance shoes for kids who wear AFOs.

One of the most common mistakes that I see families make is to assume that any New Balance shoe in extra wide will accommodate their child’s AFOs. There are a lot of New Balance kids’ shoes available in extra wide widths, and some are deeper and more supportive than others.

Did you know that a properly fitting shoe is critical to the proper functioning of an Ankle Foot Orthosis (AFO)? Finding the perfect pair of shoes for your child’s AFO can be a time-consuming and challenging experience, but I am going to help you find it.

Physical and occupational therapists refer families to the shoe store I work for to be fitted for shoes and orthotics. We get a lot of families who bring their AFOs with them and we need to help them find the correct type of shoe. New Balance manufactures certain shoes that are my go-to ones for children who wear AFOs, and I will show you these shoes shortly.

Kindly note that if you are in a rush you can go directly to a list of the best New Balance shoes for kids who wear AFOs.

What Makes New Balance Shoes Ideal for Accommodating AFOs?

1️⃣ Substantial Outsoles: This feature provides a stable and supportive base for the medial arch and forefoot. Shoes with substantial outsoles help hold the AFO/SMO securely in place.


2️⃣ 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. However, stay away from shoes that are overly flexible as they won’t provide the correct amount of support.


3️⃣ Firm Heel Counter: This feature provides additional heel and ankle support as well as heel stabilization.


Extra Wide New Balance Shoes – Best and Worst Styles

Not all New Balance shoes provide these 3 important features. Some New Balance shoes provide substantial outsoles and firm heel counters while some others are too flimsy and don’t provide the correct amount of support.

Below you can see two different New Balance shoes that are available in extra wide widths (XW) but provide very different levels of support.

When I press on the heel counter of the New Balance shoe on the left it bends, but when I press on the heel counter of the New Balance shoe on the right it feels firm and sturdy.

I always tell parents to press on the heel counter of the shoes and make sure it feels firm and not too soft. Shoes that provide firm heel counters provide additional heel and ankle support as well as heel stabilization.

In this case, you want to stay away from the style called the RaveRun as it doesn’t provide the correct amount of support for a child who wears AFOs.

Difference Between 2 New Balance Shoes in Extra Wide Widths

You have no idea how many times I have heard parents recommend other families to get any New Balance shoe in extra wide to accommodate the AFO. This is a big mistake, as not all New Balance shoes in extra wide are capable of accommodating AFOs.

Take a look at how differently the AFO fits in the New Balance shoes below which are both a shoe size 12 1/2 extra wide (XW).

➡️ New Balance Shoe (RaveRun) in a size 12 1/2 (XW):

Do you notice how the AFO is pushing on the side of the shoe? The shoe is a size 12 1/2 extra wide but it’s clearly not deep or wide enough. This will make your child uncomfortable and it’s highly likely that the shoes will end up falling apart faster.

➡️ New Balance Shoe (990V5) in a size 12 1/2 (XW):

The AFO is fitting correctly inside this New Balance shoe as there are no pressure points. This shoe is the same length and width as the one above.

I created a video to help you better visualize how the AFO footplate is pressing against the side of the shoe:

The shoe below is the same length and width as the one above but notice how much better the AFO is fitting inside the shoe:

It’s clear that all New Balance shoes fit differently when it comes to accommodating AFOs.

After testing all New Balance shoe styles I came up with a list of the best New Balances shoes for kids who wear AFOs. The New Balance shoes I recommend below are the deepest and most supportive ones, and they are all available in extra wide widths (XW). 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 New Balance Shoes for AFOs

Keep in mind that shoes with shoelaces are always better for children who wear AFOs as they provide better support and stability. You will also be able to open up the show widely to easily slide your child’s feet with the AFOs inside the shoes.

I suggest that you apply the following shoe lacing technique to secure your child’s feet and prevent the AFOs from moving excessively.

How to Order the Correct Size for Your Child’s AFOs?

One of the most common mistakes that I see parents make is to buy bigger shoes to accommodate their child’s AFOs. Shoes that are too big cannot support your child’s gait or weight transition and will compromise your child’s stability. 

I came up with a system to help those families who are unsure about what shoe size they need to order for their child’s AFOs. My method shouldn’t take you longer than a minute to do, and you will have the peace of mind that you are ordering the correct shoe size for your child’s AFOs.

All you need to follow my method is a measuring tape to measure your child’s AFOs. I will then input those measurements in the Brannock Device (you can do this yourself if you have one at home), and this will retrieve the shoe size that you need to order.

➡️ Step Number 1: Measure Your Child’s AFOs

Measure your child’s AFO brace from the back of the heel up to the front part of the brace as shown in the image below. You can either use a measuring tape or a ruler. Make note of that measurement and proceed to step number 2.

➡️ Step Number 2: Measure Your Child’s Foot Length

Measure your child’s feet while standing, as on weight-bearing the foot becomes longer. Measure both feet up to the tip of your child’s longest toe. It’s imperative that you measure both feet since there is always one foot that is bigger than the other. Keep in mind that your child’s longest toe doesn’t necessarily have to be the big toe — it may in fact be the second or even the third toe.

Make a note of that measurement in centimeters or inches or email me the image showing the measurements (such as you see below) to avoid confusion with the measurements.

➡️ Step 3: Email Your Child’s Measurements 

Email me your child’s feet and AFO measurements so I can tell you exactly what shoe size you should order for your child. Once I receive your child’s measurements I will respond in less than 24 hours:

[email protected]

Feedback From Other Families

Final Thoughts

Simply choosing a New Balance shoe in an extra wide width (XW) and hoping it will accommodate your child’s AFOs is not enough. All New Balance shoes fit a little differently, and some styles have proven to be more supportive and deeper than others.

I am not here to limit the type of shoes your child should wear with his/her AFOs, but the shoes and orthotics work together when it comes to helping treat your child’s foot condition. If you are investing time and money in a pair of orthotics, your child might as well get the full benefits that the orthotics have to offer.

There is a psychological aspect for children who need to wear AFO braces. They need to understand the function of the device, and they also have to be willing to accept it. If in addition to having to wear a brace on their leg they are not able to wear the shoes that they like, they will have a much harder time accepting the brace. Do not hesitate to contact me if your child doesn’t like any of the shoes recommended above.