The best way I can describe shoe shopping for a child who wears AFOs is, stressful. The very first time I went to the mall and came out crying with no shoes. The sales people just don’t understand and it took me a while to understand what would and wouldn’t work. When it comes to Dean’s clothes I always buy sizes in advance and mostly from the clearance rack. Shoes for him just won’t work like that. Dean has fat feet, sorry I don’t know the politically correct way to say it. They are very wide not only side to side but top to bottom and we are adding an AFO to make it even bigger. I know a lot of people are wondering what an AFO is.
An AFO is an ankle-foot orthosis, a brace that covers the ankle and foot. AFOs are to control position and motion of the ankle, compensate for weakness, or correct deformities. Dean received his when he was around a year old. Daddy took him to the appointment and it is all white like I requested but it has a secret firetruck on the bottom, that I love. We’re hoping it will help him learn to walk correctly. Dean’s is a hinged AFO which allows his ankle to move in it. He wears it around 4 hours a day, on a good day. Dean only wears one AFO on his affected side because he has hemiparesis (a weakness of one side of the body), some kids wear one on each foot. Because he only wears one it is even harder to find shoes.
I wanted to share what I’ve found that works when shopping for shoes for an AFO. First, the Cat and Jack Crew Socks from Target. They fit great and stay up, we found that he has redness and bruising with certain socks. Second, the first thing I always do is take out the insole on the shoe the AFO goes in, we don’t always buy wide so this is a great way to create space. Third, I always order online from sites that do free shipping both ways, if I have to pay full price I’m definitely not paying for shipping too! Ordering online I can purchase a few different sizes and keep the smallest one that works and it’s way less stressful than sitting in a store. Next, is my favorite AFO tip, Nordstrom. They have the BEST return policy and allow you to mix sizes. If you call and let them know you will be keeping different sizes they will let you mail back (for free) the mismatched pairs. Lastly, I have always tried to find shoes that are in style for him. Right now Adidas and high tops are in so I have found some styles that work.
I’ll start with our favorite pair, Nike FlyEase. I think it is amazing that Nike took the time to make shoes that would work for people with AFOs. They range from toddler to adult and have great looking styles. They only offer one color for toddler boys and I was pretty sure this would be the only shoe Dean wore because they are so easy. They zip around the back and allow the foot to slide in. The first order was a bit rough, they only sell them online which is great for me but I know others have said they would like to available in stores. I ordered a few sizes and quickly realized we were going to need 2 different sizes. They aren’t the widest so at first he was wearing 2 sizes up on his affected side. I called customer service and they agreed to send two different sizes but I had to mail all of the others back and they sent me a new mismatched pair. It took a while beginning to end. I recently ordered a second pair because his feet grew. It was super easy this time, I just emailed customer service and they mailed out the next size up for each foot.
I was looking for another shoe that would work for fall. While ordering a pair of Adidas for myself I started looking at their toddler shoes and saw some that I thought could work. This first pair is called the V Jog Shoes. They are super cute and perfect for Dean but also come in girls. They are deep enough for his AFO and while the velcro is a tad short it still works and looks fine. These are not in a wide size but we had no issues getting his foot in and out, the toe box is huge. We didn’t need to worry about split sizing because we only went up a half size, this was probably the coolest part. Again, I ordered from Adidas.com but I know most of their shoes are sold in stores now.
These Adidas high tops are great. They are the Hoops Mid Shoes. The AFO slips in and out so easy. The “laces” are actually velcro so the tongue pulls out super far. On these we had to pull the velcro tight, but again it worked. They are high enough not to have to worry about the hinges on the AFO and again only needed a half size up. I am impressed with the price of the Adidas I ordered, they are super in style and offer these in black and white. Plus, you can always find Adidas coupon codes.
I love these Vans, SK8-Hi Zip Sneaker. They look good with almost all his outfits and they come in a million colors. We ordered these from Nordstrom which was good because the sizing is way off. I ended up keeping a half size smaller for his unaffected foot and then one size larger than that for his AFO. The laces are super stretchy and the back is a zipper so they were easy to get his foot in.
So now that we’ve found some awesome shoe options he’s about grown out of his AFO. Dean is still not walking. They have talked about switching him to an SMO (short AFO) and adding a KiddieGAIT. I believe they said to help his foot clear the ground better. He stands up on just about everything, walks with a walker and holding onto something but just not taking unassisted steps, yet.