Best Shoes for Kids with Hinged AFOs – Low Tops Are Better Than High Tops!

Has your child been recommended to wear an Ankle Foot Orthoses (AFO) by a medical professional and you are having a hard time finding shoes? AFOs can enhance your child’s mobility by keeping the feet and legs in proper alignment, correcting abnormal walking patterns, and improving stability and overall posture. Moreover, a hinged AFO allows free ankle motion and offers more flexibility, and this is particularly beneficial for children who need assistance with their gait and foot positioning. On that account, I have put together a list of the best shoes for kids with hinged AFOs.

To give you some context, I have been fitting children’s shoes and orthotics for the last 10 years, working for a specialized children’s shoe store that focuses on helping children with foot and leg problems. I am not here to restrict the type of shoes your child should wear with his/her AFOs. I understand how important it is for children to be able to wear shoes that they like, but at the same time, I feel I have a responsibility to tell you if a shoe is doing more damage than good. You are investing money and time in an AFO so you might as well get the full benefits that the AFOs have to offer.


Kindly note that if you are in a rush you can go directly to the selection of adaptive shoes for kids with hinged AFOs.

What Are Ankle-Foot Orthoses (AFOs) and What is Referred to as “Hinged AFOs”?

Ankle-Foot Orthoses, more frequently known as AFOs, are among the most commonly prescribed lower limb orthoses. They can be custom-made for children and they usually encompass the foot, ankle, and leg, finishing just below the knee, although not in all cases. 

The term “hinged” refers to the presence of an articulation or joint within the AFO, allowing controlled movement of the ankle. Unlike rigid AFOs, which immobilize the ankle joint completely, hinged AFOs offer a degree of flexibility, allowing limited movement at the ankle. In short, a hinged AFO provides specialized support and stability to the ankle and foot while promoting better mobility.

The Importance of Ordering Shoes in the Correct Size

AFOs are made to treat a variety of factors and conditions, including joint instability, muscle weakness, and low/high muscle tone. They can make your child walk easier by supporting weakened muscles, reducing the risk of falls and pain. One of the main purposes of wearing an AFO is to provide stability, but if your child wears shoes that are too large you will be defeating the whole purpose of wearing the AFO.

For your child to get all the benefits that the AFOs have to offer, you must fit them in the correct type of shoes that are also the correct size.

What Shoes Work Best for Children with Hinged AFOs?

Low shoe styles versus high-top shoes are recommended to not block the hinges. The term “low” refers to shoes that provide a low-cut design, which means they have a lower back portion that does not extend above the ankle. This design allows the hinges of the AFOs to remain unobstructed and function properly. Here are some of the reasons why low-cut shoes are recommended:

➡️ Unobstructed hinges

➡️ Easy to put on and take off

➡️ Enhanced comfort and fit

Is It Harder to Find Shoes for Hinged AFOs?

A lot of parents complain that it is harder to find shoes for hinged AFOs than it is to find shoes for regular AFOs. This is because hinged AFOs tend to have plastic bits that stick out on the back and side a little which makes them wider:

Best Shoes for Kids with Hinged AFOs – Enhance Your Child’s Comfort and Mobility

You can explore the options shown below. Make sure that you click on the specific model that you like (no matter if it’s a boy’s or girl’s color) as the shoe is probably available in many different colors. 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. This allows us to create free content and resources for many families around the world. 

Please note that getting the correct shoe size for a child who wears hinged AFOs usually takes a lot of trial and error. On that account, I created a free resource to help you determine exactly what shoe size you should order for your child’s AFOs. Keep on reading to find out more information on this.

The Importance of Ordering the Correct Shoe Size

Choosing the correct type of shoes in the correct size is the only way your child will get the full benefits of the AFOs. The shoes need to be comfortable, otherwise, your child’s AFOs will spend more time in the closet than actually being worn, and you will be wasting time and money.

Housekeeping of AFOs – Final Thoughts and Recommendations

➡️ On How to Fit AFOs

  • I suggest that your child wears knee-high cotton socks under the AFOs as this can reduce the constant rubbing. 
  • If your child has an AFO for each foot, make sure that you are putting them on the correct feet. 
  • Make sure to fasten the ankle strap firmly, then the calf strap. Also, ensure that all the straps are fastened securely. Thereafter, your child’s shoe can be worn over the orthoses.

➡️ On How to Remove AFOs

Don’t forget to check your child’s skin when you remove their AFO. I say this because AFOs can cause a slightly red line around the edge of the orthosis, but this should usually disappear within half an hour approximately. Note, if your child has any pain or skin marks that do not disappear within half an hour or they develop blisters, please contact your medical professional at the earliest to make sure they can promptly evaluate the situation and advise accordingly. 

➡️ On Care Instructions for AFOs

Bear in mind that the AFOs should be cleaned regularly by wiping them with a damp cloth and soapy water. Once the AFOs are clean, they should be completely dry before being reapplied. Please refrain from using direct sunlight or a hair dryer and tumble dryer to dry your AFOs.

I always suggest parents ask their orthotist or physical therapist about the shoes the child is wearing and how they fit. They can offer guidance on finding the most suitable styles according to the kid’s medical needs.

Thank you for reading! We hope you found helpful this post on the best shoes for kids with hinged AFOs. Feel free to share this post with your community on social media as well as your experiences in the comments section below. Keep in mind that if you have any questions or need any assistance, you can also contact us via email and we will get back to you as soon as possible. 

Related Articles on Kids Who Wear AFOs That May Be of Interest

If you are looking for additional information or recommendations on shoes for children who wear AFOs, there are other resources I created where I describe the best sandals and boots for AFOs.