Shoes and splints: A guide to find footwear for AFO’s With an orange backgrown and a drawing of 2 afo splints and brogues
Cerebral Palsy,  Disability

Shoes and splints: A guide to find footwear for AFO’s

If you’ve ever gone shoe shopping in the hope of finding AFO (ankle foot orthotic) suitable shoes then you’ve probably spent hours trying to find the right pair. I have worn AFO splints for most of my life so can certainly relate to the ‘joys’ of shoe shopping. A previous blog post, “Trainers never matched my aesthetic”: The emotional impact of wearing AFO splints, sums it up pretty well!

Today is World CP Day 2020, so I’m sending solidarity to everyone who wears AFO splints and all those who are part of the search to find shoes that fit. This year World CP Day are wanting people to #CPMakeYourMark and share solutions they’ve discovered. As a result, I’ve put together all the tips and tricks I’ve learnt over the years so that you can find shoes with ease.

What are AFO splints?

An AFO is an ankle foot orthotic that is prescribed by a orthotist, it most commonly is worn by people who have cerebral palsy or a condition that causes foot drop.

A fitted AFO splint is plastic splints which has been made using a cast of your foot. They are made to keep feet and ankles in a good position for standing and walking. An AFO may be worn on one foot or both feet. Also, depending on your range of movement it can have a joint or hinge at the ankle or is be fixed in one position.

Variations of an AFO splint:

  • Supramalleolar Orthoses (SMOs), an orthoses that finish just above the ankle.
  • Dynamic Ankle Foot Orthoses (DAFOs – a brand name) are thin and flexible which offers less ridged support.
  • Knee Ankle Foot Orthotic (KAFO) is used to control instability in the knee and lower limb.
  • Fixed splints hold the ankle and foot at a particular angle, with this normally being at 90 degrees.
  • Hinged splints allow people with more range of movement to still have support and obtain at least 90 degrees.
  • Off the shelf means you can order splints based on your shoe size, rather than it being custom made. Please talk to an orthotist about doing this.

How can I get shoes that fit?

I have always needed one or two sizes bigger than my shoe size. Yet this can be extremely complicated if you only wear a splint on one leg. Also, shoes often need to be a larger size to fit the width of the splint, meaning the added length could cause you to trip.

The type of shoe:

  • Boys/male shoes are sturdy and wider
  • Wide fitting shoes
  • Trainers can fit the best
  • High top shoes can be more supportive
  • Avoid anything with a heel
  • Shoes that have laces and a zip (allows the shoe to be adjusted more)
  • A back high enough to support the splint
  • Durable sole

When I was going into Sixth Form I wanted some brogues. It might seem trivial, but as someone who adored vintage fashion, I just wanted a pair of shoes that matched. I managed to find a pair of men’s black brogues that fit with my AFO splints and I cried! The insoles were taken out and it was a squeeze, but they were on. Since then I have had various pairs of brogues, one of which was a wide fit.

Extra tips

  • Take the insoles out
  • If you need to buy two pairs some places offer a discount
  • Be sure it’s not too tight on the toes
  • Use a shoe horn if needed
  • Some shoes ‘give’ so will be more comfortable after been worn
  • Extra velcro can be added if it‘s too short
  • Loosen the laces all the way to the bottom

I was so used to a new pair of shoes every season, with this mainly being due to the wear and tear of the sole. The way I walk would just wear down the sole. However, when my feet had stopped growing I invested in a pair of Doc Martin boots and I haven’t looked back! This will be the forth winter I will be wearing them. I actually decided on a pair of brown boots which already had a distressed look, meaning they have aged even better!

Particular brands to look out for:

  • Jo‘s Odd Shoes: A Facebook group for people who only need one shoe or buy two pairs in different sizes.
  • Billy Footwear: Functional fashion for all, with shoes that unzip to completely open the front of the shoe.
  • Sketchers zipped shoes: Some Sketcher shoes have zips which enable them to open up further
  • Nike flyEase: Designed by someone with CP, these shoes unzip at the back to fit splints in and require less hand functions to put on.
  • M&S adaptive shoes range: They have school shoes and trainers that have a zip and laces to make it easier for those who have reduced motor function or need shoes to be more adjustable.

I want to make this article as informative as possible, if you have any other suggestions then please get in touch or leave a comment below.

You’ve got this! Finding shoes can be infuriating, but I hope these tips will make the next shoe shopping trip less stressful.

~ Chloe x


  • Stacey

    Great post Chloe👍

    My tips would be:

    Unlace the entire trainer and lace it back up once AFO is inside,

    Think about putting your shoe on in a whole different way – with an AFO it’s more like a twisting action until the heel of AFO is inside.

  • Mark

    Chloe, I’m a Orthotist and I specialize in pediatrics. Finding foot wear that fits over a AFO can be hard. You have put together some great tips for AFO wearers. Many of the kids I work with use New Balance, they tend to be a little wider then other brands. New Balance also are easier to find in wide widths for kid sizes. Billy shoes are great and they now have a shoe that is made for AFO wearers. The Billy shoe classic WDR high tops are wider, deeper, and more resilient.

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