Top 4 Shoe Brands for Kids Who Wear AFOs – Best Shoes to Wear with AFO Leg Braces!

Has your child been diagnosed with a condition that requires him or her to wear a pair of AFOs? Are you having the hardest time finding a pair of shoes to accommodate your child’s AFOs? 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. Let’s take a look at the top 4 shoe brands for kids who wear AFOs.

Kindly note that if you are in a rush you can go directly to the selection of the top 4 shoe brands for kids who wear AFOs.

Simply because you find a shoe that fits over the AFO it doesn’t mean that they are the best option for your child’s feet. I also want to point out that allowing your child to walk around in shoes that are too large might compromise your child’s stability and make your child more prone to falling. 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.

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.

Common Mistakes Parents Make when Buying Shoes for AFOs

The most common mistake I see parents make is buying larger shoes to accommodate their child’s AFO.

I have noticed how most families simply increase the shoe size by two full shoe sizes or more, which can defeat the whole purpose of investing your time and money in an AFO. Parents keep trying longer shoes until they find one that fits the AFO and they call that a success.

Some families tell me how they only went a whole size up for their child’s foot size when in fact they bought the shoes two full sizes bigger. The problem is that most families don’t know their child’s actual foot size to begin with.

One of the most common reasons why children need to wear AFOs is to improve their stability. However, if you provide your child with shoes that are way too large, you’re stealing that stability right back.

Think about it. Your child will have a hard time maneuvering with the AFO, especially if your child is wearing them for the first time, so don’t make this learning process even harder by fitting your child in a pair of shoes that are too large.

What Makes the Shoes I Recommend Ideal for AFOs?

1️⃣ Extra Depth: This feature allows the child’s AFO to fit deeply inside the shoes. The deeper the AFO sits inside the shoes, the more comfortable your child will feel. This feature can drastically increase your child’s comfort and prevent your child from getting the impression that his/her feet are coming out of 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 Substantial Outsoles: The shoes must provide a substantial outsole to hold the AFO in place and support your child’s feet at the same time.

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

6️⃣ 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.

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

Top 4 Shoe Brands for Kids Who Wear AFOs

Keep in mind that there is no universal shoe brand that can accommodate all of your child’s foot needs. For example, one shoe brand might be the best one when it comes to everyday sneakers, but that particular shoe brand might not be the best one when it comes to dress shoes or seasonal shoes.

It’s also important to note that just because I recommend a specific shoe brand that doesn’t mean that all shoes from that specific brand will work for your child’s AFOs. Let’s use New Balance as an example. The New Balance kids’ shoe line is quite extensive, and models differ greatly in terms of fit and support. Not all New Balance shoes in extra wide widths are capable of accommodating AFOs and some styles provide better support and stability than others.

Number 1: New Balance

New Balance is my go-to shoe brand for everyday sneakers. The specific New Balance shoe styles I recommend below provide all of the features I mentioned before. The New Balance shoes below are the ones that work best for AFOs. They are available in wide (W) and extra wide (XW) widths and all have removable insoles.

Number 2: See Kai Run

See Kai Run shoes don’t come labeled as wide (W) or extra wide (XW) but they are some of the deepest shoes I have fitted before. The thing I love the most about this shoe brand is how it provides shoes that are supportive but lightweight and flexible at the same time.

The See Kai Run shoes below are the ones that work best with AFOs. These shoes provide extra padding around the heel area and all come with removable insoles.

Number 3: Stride Rite

Stride Rite came up with a new line called Journey, which offers shoes that are fully adaptable and designed to accommodate orthotics and braces.

Number 4: Billy

Billy shoes come with a zipper that goes along the outside and around the toe, allowing the shoe to open up widely. This makes it really convenient for children to independently get the shoes on and off. However, it’s important to note that Billy shoes were not built specifically for AFO use, they were built to provide an alternative way to access entry into shoes.

How to Tie Your Kids’ Shoes to Keep the AFO in Place

Keep in mind that shoelaces help provide better support and stability compared to shoes with velcro or an alternative closure. In fact, there is a specific shoe lacing technique that my coworker who has 20 plus years of shoe fitting experience taught me and works wonders for children who wear AFOs.

That specific shoe lacing technique is going to secure your child’s feet against the back of the shoes and help keep the AFO in place.

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

➡️ 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. 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 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 Number 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]

Final Thoughts on Kids Who Wear AFOs!

I always encourage parents to ask their orthotist or physical therapist if they have concerns about the shoe style and size they picked.

Every child is unique and they all want to express themselves and feel confident. I want children to be able to express themselves through footwear choices and wear the shoes that they love. However, functional shoes should always remain our top priority!

If there is a specific shoe style that your child has been asking for and you are unsure whether it’s appropriate to wear or not let me know in the comment section below and I will be happy to provide you with feedback.

What Socks Should Children Wear with Their AFOs?

It’s important to provide your child with socks that are thick, soft, seamless, and tall enough to prevent the AFOs plastic and strapping to rub against your child’s skin.

The main goal of the socks is to act as a protective barrier between your child’s feet and the AFOs. Your child’s socks should maximize skin health and provide all-day comfort.

Some children experience significant perspiration in their AFOs, and if this occurs with your child, I suggest that you try changing socks once or twice a day. However, certain socks provide excellent breathability, and they are made with anti-microbial technology. There is a different article I wrote that you might find helpful as it describes the best socks for kids who wear AFOs.

How to Correctly Put on Your Child’s AFO 

  • Unfasten all straps of your child’s AFO.
  • Pull up your child’s socks and make sure there are no creases in them.
  • Place your child’s heel at the back of the AFO, and then fasten the ankle strap. Make sure that it is firm enough to secure the foot, but not too tight.
  • Fasten the top strap. Again, this should be snug but not too tight.
  • Undo your child’s shoelaces, open up the shoe widely and put on the shoe.