Understanding and Using AFO Braces

August 31, 2023

ankle foot orthosis braceAnkle foot orthosis (AFO) braces are commonly utilized in medical care to provide support for and improve the function of the foot and ankle, often aiding in injury recovery. Today, ankle-foot orthoses are the most commonly used type of orthoses, comprising approximately 26% of the orthoses market in the United States.

In this article, we’ll provide a comprehensive understanding of ankle foot orthosis braces including what they are used for and which conditions they help with, how they can be worn with shoes, some of the different AFO products that are available, and other essential aspects of these braces. 

What Is an AFO Brace Used For? 

An AFO brace is a specialized type of orthotic device designed to support and stabilize the foot and ankle region. These braces are typically made from materials such as plastic, carbon fiber, or metal and are worn on the lower leg to provide the necessary support and correct alignment for various foot and ankle conditions.  

The primary function of an AFO brace is to control the range of motion of the ankle joint, help with weight-bearing, improve mobility, and enhance the overall stability of the foot and ankle. Additionally, AFO braces can help protect against the development of deformities, minimize the risk of further complications, and relieve pain associated with various foot and ankle disorders. 

How Long Should You Wear an AFO Brace?

The duration for which a person should wear an AFO brace depends on the specific condition being treated and the recommendations of the treating healthcare professional. Generally, AFO braces are worn during the day and removed at night. However, the duration of use can vary depending on the severity of the condition, the type of AFO brace being used, and the individual's response to treatment. It is crucial to follow the healthcare professional's advice regarding the proper usage of the AFO brace to ensure optimal results and prevent complications. 

What Conditions Require an AFO? 

AFO braces are prescribed for various conditions affecting the foot and ankle, including: 

  1. Foot drop: AFO braces are frequently used to help control foot drop, and in fact are commonly referred to as “foot drop braces” since they can help stabilize the foot and ankle and prevent it from dragging during walking, thereby improving an individual's gait
  2. Plantar fasciitis: An AFO brace helps to support the arch of the foot and relieve pain caused by inflammation of the plantar fascia. 
  3. Stroke, Multiple Sclerosis, or other neurological conditions: Patients with weakened muscles or nerve damage as a result of disorders such as stroke, cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, and peripheral nerve injury can benefit from the added stability provided by an AFO brace. 
  4. Ankle sprains or fractures: By providing additional support and stability to the ankle joint in patients with arthritis or ankle sprains and fractures, AFO braces promote healing and help to prevent re-injury. 

How Do You Wear Shoes with an AFO?  

Wearing shoes with an AFO brace can be challenging, but with the right footwear and adjustments, it is possible to achieve a comfortable fit. Here are a few tips for choosing and wearing shoes that are suitable with an AFO brace: 

  • Select shoes that feature a wide and deep toe box to accommodate the AFO brace and prevent excessive pressure on the foot. 
  • Opt for footwear with removable insoles, as this can provide additional space for the AFO brace. 
  • Consider purchasing one size larger than what you’re used to for promoting a comfortable fit with the AFO brace.  
  • Look for adjustable straps or laces, as these can help secure the AFO brace within the shoe and provide a customized fit. 
  • If possible, try on the shoes while wearing the AFO brace to ensure an optimal fit and level of comfort. 
  • If unable to tolerate an in-shoe device, consider choosing an AFO brace that is designed for use outside the shoe. Such options can be attached to a shoe, as an alternative. 

Choosing the Right Type of AFO with AliMed

AliMed® offers a large variety of AFO braces which can help accommodate patients with specific needs. Some of these products include the following: 

FREEDOM® Soft Footdrop Braces are lightweight, low-profile AFOs made of soft, flexible material and provides support for mild to moderate foot drop. The slim design allows for easy fitting within most shoe types. 

FREEDOM® Swedish AFOs are prefabricated, low-profile AFOs made from polypropylene designed to provide support and control for mild to moderate ankle instability.  

FREEDOM® Adjustable Footdrop Braces feature an adjustable calf strap for a comfortable, secure fit. These braces are formulated to provide dynamic support for foot drop and can be easily adjusted to accommodate changes in the patient's condition.  

EZ Dorsi Assist AFOs are lightweight, low-profile AFOs that can accommodate patients who are unable to tolerate an in-shoe device, such as those with diabetes. Carbon fiber construction provides strength and durability, while VELCRO® straps ensure a secure and comfortable fit. Additionally, these braces can be easily attached to any shoe. 

Ankle foot orthoses, which are currently the most popular types of orthoses worn in the United States, are a vital tool in the effective care and management of various foot and ankle conditions. Different AFO braces can help to accommodate the specific needs of individuals who contend with issues like muscle weakness, instability, deformities, and gait deviations that are brought on by ailments such as spinal cord injury, stroke, arthritis, cerebral palsy, peripheral nerve injury, plantar fasciitis, Multiple Sclerosis, or ankle sprains. However, it is important to consult a qualified healthcare professional prior to using an AFO brace to help ensure a proper fit, adequate comfort, and improved functionality. 


AliMed, Inc. is a manufacturer and distributor of medical supply products, and is not a medical authority. The contents contained in this article, including text, graphics, imagery, and other materials, are for informational and educational purposes only. AliMed does not provide or intend to provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and the information contained here should not be treated as such. If you have questions about a specific medical condition or specific personal use of a medical device, always consult your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

This blog was created with the assistance of artificial intelligence. Although every effort has been made to present information that is accurate and true to the best of our knowledge, this content may contain omissions or errors. AliMed does not regularly update information or resources for this content and does not guarantee, make any warranties, and accepts no liability for the accuracy or completeness of the information presented.