Worst Shoe Brands for Kids Who Wear AFOs – Stay Away from These 4 Shoe Brands!

I have noticed that there is a common misconception among parents when it comes to choosing what type of footwear children should wear with their AFOs. I have seen parents recommend certain shoe brands that are in fact ranked among the worst shoe brands for kids who wear AFOs.

Most parents of children who wear AFOs agree that one of the most frustrating things they have to deal with is how time-consuming it is to find shoes that fit. Some children start wearing AFOs as early as 3 months old, while some others start wearing them at an older age.

Either way, when AFOs are fitted in the correct pair of shoes they can greatly improve your child’s walking gait and benefit your child’s mobility challenges, as well as support your child’s weak muscles. Other benefits include improving your child’s overall posture, preventing foot deformity, and providing a stable base of support.

Some parents take their children shoe shopping and try at least a half-dozen athletic brands just to end up empty-handed, as most shoes are not wide and deep enough to fit over the braces.

Most of the time I see children come to the store wearing the wrong pair of shoes with their AFOs. The shoes are either too big or not supportive enough.

There is a lot of misinformation online because a lot of parents are recommending shoe brands for children who wear AFOs, but these shoe brands are actually not the best choice for children who wear AFOs.

Stop Getting Bigger Shoes to Accommodate Your Child’s AFOs

Parents need to understand that simply because they find a shoe that can fit over their child’s AFOs that doesn’t make that particular shoe a good choice. I say this because a lot of parents assume that if the shoe can fit over the braces then it is okay to wear them.

Shoes that are bigger than a whole size and a half (half an inch or 1.3 centimeters) of the AFO footplate will compromise your child’s stability and defeat one of the main purposes of the AFOs: to improve the child’s stability.

The Shoes Need to Provide the Correct Amount of Support

I have seen a lot of parents recommend Converse, Nike and Vans shoes for their kids. These shoes might be able to accommodate your child’s AFO, but you will end up getting the shoes way too big,

Another issue is that the shoes don’t provide the correct amount of support or stability. Some parents fall under the misconception that they don’t need good supportive shoes because the AFOs will do all of the work. This is false. The AFOs and the shoes work together in helping improve your child’s foot condition and stability.

You might be surprised by some of the brands that made the list of the worst shoe brands for AFOs, but this is based on my experience of having fitted shoes for the last 10 years. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the worst shoe brands for kids who wear AFOs.

Worst Shoe Brands for Kids Who Wear AFOs

Number 1: Converse

It worries me that I see a lot of forums online in which parents recommend other families to choose Converse for their child’s AFOs.  There are 2 things I want you to pay attention to in the image below.

1- Do you notice how the outsole of the shoe is flat? Remember that the AFOs won’t do all of the work by themselves, the shoes need to be supportive as well.

2- Do you notice how the front part of the shoes doesn’t provide any extra depth? We need your kids’ shoes to provide extra depth to allow the AFOs to fit deeply inside the shoe and prevent the top part of your child’s feet and toes from rubbing against the front part of the shoes.

Keep in mind that some parents believe Converse shoes work great with AFOs because they are not aware that these shoes fit really long, so they believe they are not getting bigger shoes when in fact they are.

If your children really want a pair of Converse shoes they can wear them as “fashion” shoes, but I strongly suggest that you limit the wear to no more than 3 hours per day.

Number 2: Nike

Nike shoes are not meant to be worn with AFOs. I understand how this shoe brand is one of the most popular ones among children, but I have not fitted a single child who wore AFOs in a pair of Nike shoes.

The reasons are similar to the ones I mentioned before with Converse. Nike shoes don’t provide good support and their shoes don’t provide any extra depth or rounder toe-boxes to accommodate the AFOs.

Nike recently created the FlyEase, which is an adaptive, easy-access shoe that zips around the ankle. It was designed specifically for kids who need to wear AFOs or other types of orthotics inside their shoes. Do you notice how there is a zipper that goes around the shoes? This allows the child to open up the shoe widely to easily slide the AFOs inside the shoe.

Even though this is a big step forward for Nike in terms of realizing that kids’ feet come in all different types of shapes, sizes, and needs, they still fail to address that the shoes need to be supportive, provide extra depth, and be available in different widths such as wide (W) and extra wide (XW). This means that even with this particular Nike style (FlyEase), most parents end up buying the shoes two whole sizes bigger or more.

Number 3: Vans

Vans shoes don’t work well with AFOs for the same reasons I mentioned with Converse. There are 2 things I want you to pay attention to in the image below.

1- Do you notice how the outsole of the shoe is flat? The shoe lacks the structure and support to hold the AFOs in place.

2- Do you notice how the front part of the shoe doesn’t provide extra depth? This makes it hard, if not impossible to fit orthotics or AFOs.

Number 4: Crocs

I found it surprising the number of parents who recommend Crocs to other parents of children who wear AFOs.  I am not even sure if they are having their children wear the AFOs with the Crocs or just wear the Crocs without the AFOs. Either way, Crocs are a big no-no for children who wear AFOs.

Crocs are known for their lack of support and stability. Even though they do fit on the wider side, this doesn’t make them a good choice for kids who wear AFOs.

There are other summer shoe choices that can accommodate an AFO a lot better than Crocs can.

I provided you with a list of the top 4 worst shoe brands for kids who wear AFOs. I wanted to focus on these 4 shoe brands because it seems to be a common misconception among several parents who are recommending these brands without knowing that they will do more harm than good.

The sad thing is that these big athletic brands have the resources to develop footwear for children with disabilities. Unfortunately, they chose not to do it.

What Are the Best Shoe Brands for Kids Who Wear AFOs?

If you want to learn about the best shoe brands for kids who wear AFOs you are in luck as I created a different resource that covers the top 4 shoe brands for AFOs.

Do not hesitate to contact me if you are having trouble finding a specific shoe for your child’s AFOs: [email protected] 

My Final Thoughts on Kids Who Wear AFOs

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the shoes you will buy to fit over braces. However, if you know which shoe brands are more capable of accommodating an AFO you will increase the likelihood of finding a pair of shoes that fit.

There are different types of braces that affect shoe fit. The key is to find a pair of shoes that are supportive, comfortable, provide rounder toe-boxes, and extra depth.

If you are unsure about which shoe size you should be ordering to accommodate your child’s AFOs I suggest that you take a look at this free resource I created.

I hope that one day all kids who struggle with mobility issues and their parents can go to their local shoe store and find not one, but several shoe options, just like their counterparts who don’t need braces.

Is there a shoe brand you believe I should have included or left out of the list? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.