Should You Bring Shoes to Your Child’s AFO/SMO Appointment?

A lot of families are unsure about whether they should bring shoes to their child’s AFO/SMO appointment. Some of their most common questions are:

  • Can we use our child’s current shoes to try the new AFOs/SMOs?
  • Should we wait until we get the AFOs/SMOs to buy new shoes?
  • How do we know what shoe size we should buy for the new AFOs/SMOs?

Let’s dig into these questions to clarify any doubts you might have. Keep in mind that I have worked for a specialized children’s shoe store for the last 10 years, and that’s where I learned everything I know about what shoes work best with AFOs/SMOs.

We get referrals from many physical and occupational therapists to have children fitted for shoes and orthotics. Parents need to understand that there is a very small selection of shoes that work well with AFOs/SMOs. By the way, it’s a lot easier to find shoes that fit SMOs compared to AFOs.

Getting the correct type of shoes for your child’s AFOs is extremely important to enhance your child’s function and increase comfort. If you don’t fit your child’s AFOs in the correct type of shoes, your child’s AFOs become virtually worthless.

Can We Use Our Child’s Current Shoes to Try the New AFOs/SMOs?

It’s highly likely that your child’s current shoes won’t be deep or wide enough for the new AFOs/SMOs. I also don’t recommend buying your child’s current shoes a full size or a full size and a half bigger hoping that they will accommodate the AFO/SMO.

Fitting an AFO/SMO into a shoe takes more than simply getting a longer shoe. The shoes need to provide extra depth and they probably also have to be available in wide (W) or extra wide (XW) widths.

Should We Wait Until We Get the AFOs/SMOs to Buy New Shoes?

It’s a lot easier to find shoes that fit the AFOs/SMOs when you have the brace with you. With that said, if your medical professional suggests that you bring a pair of shoes to try the new braces, you will need to ask your medical professional for the AFO measurements. Once you have the AFO measurements, you will be able to retrieve what shoe size you should buy. I will expand on this shortly.

How Do We Know What Shoe Size We Should Buy for the AFOs/SMOs?

If your medical professional asks you to bring shoes to the AFO/SMO appointment, ask him/her to send you the AFO measurements so you can start looking for the correct type of shoes.

1️⃣ Measure Your Child’s AFO Footplate: Have your medical professional measure your child’s AFO footplate. Tell him/her that he needs to 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.

Once you have that measurement you can proceed to step number 2.

2️⃣ 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. You must 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 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.

3️⃣ Email Me Your Child’s Foot Measurements: Email me your child’s AFO measurements so I can tell you exactly what shoe size you should order for your child. Once I receive your child’s feet and AFO measurements I will respond in less than 24 hours:

[email protected]

Next Step: Finding Shoes for Your Child’s AFOs/SMOs

It’s important to clarify that depending on your child’s needs, your medical professional may order custom orthopedic shoes for your child, or you may be able to bring in your own pair.

Now that you know what shoe size will accommodate your child’s AFOs, you are ready to start looking for shoes. Keep in mind that you will likely have to adjust the final shoe size that you provide for your child, depending on whether the shoes fit short, long, or true to size.

What Shoes Work Best for AFOs?

I have seen a lot of misinformation when it comes to what shoes work best with AFOs. 

The most common mistake I see is parents asking other families what shoes work best for their children’s AFOs/SMOs. The problem with this is that all children’s feet are different (different shapes) and the AFOs/SMOs are also different (some take a lot more space than others).

Should You Follow Advice from Other Families?

Every child’s situation is unique, but you are not alone in this journey. Connecting with other families is a great way to ease the stress of your situation, but you need to be careful about trying the same shoes that your friend or relative recommends. I have noticed that some families recommend a specific shoe, but they actually fitted that shoe way too long to accommodate the AFO.

For example, I have seen several posts saying how “these shoes worked great for my child’s AFOs, we only had two go two full sizes up from my child’s foot size”. If you need to buy your child’s shoes two full sizes too big, that’s not the right shoe for your child’s AFOs.

Stop Buying Shoes that Are Too Big for Your 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 understand how dealing with your child’s AFO can be an extremely time-consuming and frustrating experience, but every quarter-inch of improvement is worth fighting for. Let me ask you this: How steady would you feel walking and running around in oversized shoes?

Your child might have a hard time adjusting to the AFO, so don’t make things harder for your child by making him/her walk in oversized shoes.

What Are the Best Shoes for Kids Who Wear AFOs/SMOs?

I have put together a list of the best shoes for kids who wear AFOs and SMOs based on my 10 years of shoe fitting experience. The shoes that I recommend work really well for AFOs as they provide the following features:

1️⃣ Extra Depth: This feature allows the child’s AFO to fit deeply inside the shoes.

2️⃣ Round Toe-Boxes: This feature helps prevent the front part of the AFO from destroying the front part of the shoes.

3️⃣ Wider Opening for Easy On & Off: This feature allows parents to easily slide the AFO inside the shoes.

4️⃣ Substantial Outsole: The shoes must provide a substantial outsole to hold the AFO in place and support your child’s feet at the same time.

5️⃣ Firm Heel Counter: This feature provides additional heel and ankle support as well as heel stabilization.

6️⃣ 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.

7️⃣ Removable Insoles: By removing the original insoles of the shoes you will allow for extra room for the AFOs.

8️⃣ Shoelaces VS Velcro Closure: This is an optional feature, but I strongly recommend shoes with shoelaces over velcro closure as they provide better support and stability.

Where Can You Find Shoes that Provide these Important Features?

Here you can access a selection of the best sneakers for kids who wear AFOs or SMOs.

Whether you buy your kids’ shoes at your local shoe store or online, make sure that you save the receipt in case you have to return them.

The Final Fitting

If this is the first time that your child wears an AFO or SMO and he/she is unable to communicate pain or discomfort, you must watch your child’s feet and legs closely.

I understand that finding a pair of shoes to accommodate your child’s AFOs or SMOs can be a time-consuming and frustrating experience. I provide families with this free resource to retrieve what shoe size they should order for their child’s AFOs as I understand how they are already going on through a lot emotionally and financially. The goal of my resource is to maximize the likelihood of ordering the correct shoe size for your child’s AFOs, but it’s not a total guarantee.

Finding the correct pair of shoes for braces takes a lot of trial and error. Consider visiting your local children’s shoe store to have your child’s feet properly sized and the shoes properly fitted, and that way you can support your local business as well.

Don’t forget to ask your child’s medical professional about how often your child should wear the AFOs to begin with to ensure that there is no rubbing in certain areas.

Do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. Also, 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.