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What Are The Best Shoes For AFOs?

Shoes that fit AFO braces

The right pair of shoes can make you feel fantastic yet it can be so hard to find accessible footwear that fits and you like the look of. It’s the reason we started Friendly Shoes. One question we get asked a lot is what are the best shoes for AFOs – so read on for our answer!

What Is An AFO?

Before we get into the detail of AFO shoes, let’s look at what an AFO is.

An AFO (shorthand for ankle foot orthosis) is a brace that provides support to, and corrects the positioning of the foot and ankle. By keeping the feet in alignment, it controls motion and so helps with walking. 

The splint is usually made of plastic and will have a footplate that extends across the base of the foot from the heel, and up above the ankle on the lower leg.  

There are different types of AFOs (some provide more stability, some allow for more mobility), and it really depends on specific biomechanical need as to which you get – your orthotist (NHS or private) will be best placed to help you during this process.

Some of the conditions that AFO splints can help with are:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Foot drop
  • Arthritis in the foot
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Spasms or paralysis in ankle or feet

Best Shoes To Wear With AFO

At Friendly Shoes, we want everyone to love the shoes they wear. Our founder is an occupational therapist who’s passionate about getting people walking and shoe independent. So we know a thing or two about finding the right shoes for you and your AFO.

Whether you’re looking for AFO shoes for kids or adults, we’ve got you. Plus all our shoes are eligible for VAT exemption, so it’s a real win-win. Let’s look at what makes us so AFO friendly.

Easy Openings

This is our USP and what we love to talk about all day long! All our shoes come with zips that open up SUPER WIDE so you can slide your foot and brace right in. Want a side zip that extends the whole way down the shoe? Then our Voyage or Force are for you (or Adventure or Force if you’re looking for kids). If you want something more discreet, then our Excursion features a nifty back zip. All our zips are quality YKK.

Easy to put on shoes
Our black Voyage shoe is available for men and women, sizes 4 to 13

Look For Shoes With A Wide Toe Box

You will need wide shoes to accommodate the AFO brace. All Friendly Shoes have a wide toe box (an E fitting). Plus, all our memory foam insoles are removable – take them out and get an extra 1.3cm of all-round depth in our adult shoes (0.8cm for kids).

Wide fit shoes
Our model Charley here is rocking our Excursion in pink / grey

To Lace Or Not To Lace?

Some of our styles have laces, but as we have the super wide openings they’re more there for style and preference. If you opt for a laced shoe, then the first time you wear them we’d recommend you un-lace them the whole way down before putting your foot and splint in. Then lace them back up, set the preferred tension (you might not want to use all the eyelets, it’s up to you) and from them on, just use the zip for access! Easy peasy 🙂

Zip shoes with laces
Lace your shoes as you want them, then just use the zip!

Size Matters

It can be really tempting to just go up a size or two to find a shoe that ‘fits’. Actually, the most important measurement when buying shoes for AFOs is the length (of the foot and the AFO together, as you’ll be wearing the AFO in the shoe).

The easiest way to get this is to draw around your foot on a plain piece of paper and measure it from the heel to the tip. Then look for the size that matches that length. Our Friendly Shoes size guide explains this in more detail.

Check out our shoe fitting guide for more info

Fly Knit For The Win

All our wide fit trainers incorporate fly knit – not only does this stylish fabric look fab, but it also provides more give so the shoe will be easier to put on. Plus, our fly knit is layered so you get the great look without showing your foot underneath. 

Women wearing AFOs and Friendly Shoes, sitting in a wheelchair
Breathable and durable fly knit looks great, as well as providing ‘give’ when putting the shoes on and off

Lightweight And Stability

An AFO can help compensate for weakness, so you don’t want to add weight with your shoe. All Friendly Shoes are super lightweight – you really have to see and try to believe! Plus, our heel cushion comes up high (especially on our Excursion Mid Top) for extra support and stability.

You have to see how light they are to believe it! Plus look at that padded support at the back

Find The Style You Like

Friendly Shoes has a range of different colours and styles, so you can find shoes as individual as you are. We’ve got plain black shoes for work or school, muted colours and some brighter ones too! Find our whole collection on the Shop page.

Check out our Adventure Jet Black – the kids version of the Voyage. The side zip opens right up, and they’re perfect for school or smart occasions
We can’t get enough of our easy-on Friendly Force. Available for kids, men and women, they’re our roomiest shoe yet

To Sum Up

We hope this helps. We started Friendly Shoes as we really believe that finding shoes for AFOs shouldn’t have to be so difficult. Our specialist footwear is special because it’s there to help you gain confidence and independence. Let us know if you try our shoes – we always love to hear from you!