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How to Get the Correct Shoe Size for Your Child’s AFOs – Stop the Tears and Frustration!


Has your child been diagnosed with a foot condition that requires him or her to wear a pair of AFOs? Most parents agree that one of the most frustrating things about having a child who wears AFOs is how hard it is to find shoes that are capable of accommodating the AFOs.

If you don’t have a specialized children’s shoe store to take your child to be properly fitted for shoes, it can be a nightmare to find shoes that fit over your child’s AFO braces. Parents tell me that even when they find a pair of shoes that fit over the AFOs they are never 100% sure that the shoes are fitting correctly.

I have been working for a specialized children’s shoe store for the last 10 years where I help children with “complicated” foot shapes and foot conditions. Many of these children are referred to the store by their pediatriciansphysical and occupational therapists to be fitted for shoes and orthotics. Over the years I became familiar with the best shoes for children who wear AFOs and how to fit them correctly.

Since most specialized shoe stores are closed now I came up with the most effective way to figure out what shoe size your child needs to wear with the AFO braces. One of the most common questions parents have is: How many sizes bigger do the shoes typically need to be?

Before I show you exactly how much bigger your kids’ shoes need to be to accommodate the AFO let me show you why it’s so challenging to find shoes that fit properly over the AFOs.

AFOs Take a lot of Extra Space Inside the Shoes

Why is it so challenging to fit AFOs inside your kids shoes? The AFOs is the one type of orthotic that takes the most room inside the shoes. There are different types of AFOs and some come up higher on the child’s legs than others, but no matter what type of AFO brace you have, I can guarantee you that it will take a lot of extra space inside the shoes:



First Things First — Making Sure Your Child’s AFOs are the Right Size!

The first thing you need to make sure is that the AFO itself was not fitted too long. If the AFOs are too long then there is no way around it and your child will end up wearing shoes that are too big. For example, take a look at the image below. Do you notice how there is a lot of extra space between the child’s longest toe and the end of the AFOs?


There should be 3/16 to 1/4 of an inch (1/2 to 0.6 centimeters) of space between your child longest toe and the end of the AFOs. If your kids’ AFOs are  larger than these measurements then it’s highly likely that your child will end up wearing shoes that are too long in order to accommodate for the AFO.

Let’s take a look at another example of a pair of AFOs which are the correct size. Notice how the space between the chid’s longest toe and the end of the AFOs is more reasonable, as we are still allowing for growing room without getting the AFOs too large.


It’s understandable to try to leave some growing room as you don’t want your kids outgrowing the AFOs too quickly, considering how expensive they are. However, buying a pair of AFOs with too much extra room in the front will lead to your child wearing larger shoes. If you suspect your child’s AFOs were fitted too large ask your orthopedist to exchange them for a smaller size.

How Many Sizes Bigger do the Shoes Typically Need to Be?

I recommend going a whole size longer (3/8 of an inch or 1 centimeter) of your child’s foot size. The largest size I had to fit once was a whole size and a half longer. However, I strongly encourage parents to try to not get the shoes longer than a whole size.

If you are unsure of what shoe size to get based on your child’s foot size or your child’s AFO size, you can use a measuring tape or a ruler to measure your child’s feet and the AFOs and I will be able to retrieve your child’s shoe size.

I will then input those measurements in the Brannock Device I have at home and I will be able to retrieve what shoe size your child should wear with the AFOs. If needed, I can also send you specific shoe recommendations.

How to Retrieve What Shoe Size Your Child Should Wear with His/Her AFOs

Step Number 1

Measure your child’s AFO brace from the back of the heel all the way up to the front part of the brace as shown in the image below. Make note of that measurement and proceed to step number 2.


Step Number 2

Measure both feet all the way 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 it doesn’t necessarily have to be the big toe — it may in fact be the second or even the third toe

Make sure that your child is standing straight when taking the foot measurements. Make a note of that measurement in centimeters or inches and proceed to step number 3.


Step Number 3

Email me your child’s AFOs and foot measurements so I can input those measurements in the Brannock Device (standard foot measuring tool) I have at home. I will be able to retrieve your child’s exact foot and AFO size, and tell you exactly which shoe size you should be getting for your child. Once I receive your child’s measurements I will respond back in less than 24 hours:


If there is something else I should know about your kids’ feet I suggest that you let me know in that same email as the more information you provide me with the better assessment I can make about your kids’ feet. You can also include images of your child’s current shoes so I can determine whether they are supportive enough.

Feel free to also email me images of your child wearing the AFOs so I can determine whether your child’s AFOs are fitting correctly.

What Shoes Work Best with AFOS?

It’s important to point out that simply finding a shoe that is able to fit your child’s AFO it doesn’t mean that is the correct shoe for your child.

I have seen parents remove the tongue of the shoes to allow the AFO to fit inside the shoes and also add velcro extensions so they are log enough to fit ver the AFO. While these are very ingenious hacks, your kids’ shoes must fit correctly in order for your child to get the full benefits that the AFO has to offer. In addition, several parents have told me that when they applied these hacks the shoes fell apart really quickly.

I understand that children should be able to wear the shoes they love, and if they want to wear a pair of “fun” shoes then go ahead and apply these hacks. Just keep in mind that those shoes shouldn’t be their primary piece of footwear and they shouldn’t be worn for more than 2 to 3 hours a day.

Keep in mind that simply because a shoe is labeled as wide (W) or extra wide (XW) it doesn’t mean it will accommodate your child’s AFO. When looking for shoes to accommodate your child’s AFOs the shoes need to be labeled as wide or extra wide and also provide extra depth. The deeper the shoes are, the better. We always want to go deeper and wider instead of going longer.

Let me show you the difference between two shoes that are the same size but provide different levels of depth. For better visualization purposes I fitted an orthotic inside the shoes. Do you notice how the orthotic on the right is fitting a lot deeper compared to the shoe on the left?


By the way, don’t forget to always remove the original insoles of the shoes before fitting the AFO.

These are some of the shoe brands you want to stay away if your child were AFOs:

  • Converse
  • Crocs
  • Ugg

I mentioned those 3 specific shoe brands because a lot of parents that come to the store bring their children wearing shoes from those brands, simply because the shoes were able to fit over the AFO. Your kids’ shoes need to be supportive but lightweight and flexible at the same time. If you want to see a selection of the best shoes for kids who wear AFOs go to the link below:

Shoes that Fit AFO Braces – The Most Supportive and Deeper Children’s Shoes!

Before you buy your child’s shoes you need to consider that your child will already have a hard time manueviring with the AFOs, don’t make things harder for them by fitting the AFOs in a pair of shoes that don’t fit.

By no means I am trying to limit your child’s shoe choices. I just want to make parents aware that the AFOs and the shoes work together in improving your chid’s foot condition, balance, and coordination.

I am going to leave you with a different article I wrote where I describe how to effectively tie shoes with orthotics, and you can apply this lacing technique if your child wears AFOs:

How to Tie Shoes with Orthotics – Stop Heel Slippage

If your child has a specific shoe in mind that wants to wear with the AFOs let me know and I will be able to tell you whether there is a way we can make it fit over your child’s AFO: fittingchildrensshoes@gmail.com 

Another option is to get plain shoes and decorate them with embroidery patches from your local craft store, just stick them on with fabric glue. Fabric paints are great too!


I created this webpage to help parents understand the importance that shoes have in healthy foot development and how they can prevent foot problems in the future.Join the rest of the parents who are taking care of their kids feet and get my guide for free: 10 Mistakes Parents Must Avoid When Buying Shoes for their Kids.

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