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Ankle-Foot Orthoses

orthotics afo brace

What Are Ankle-Foot Orthoses?

Ankle-foot orthosesare braces worn at the ankle that encompass some or all of the foot. Conditions that affect the musculature or weaken the affected areacan require an orthosis to strengthen the muscles or rehabilitate them and other joints of the foot and ankle. Tight muscles that need to be lengthened and loosened also benefit from orthoses.

When we think of diseases that affect the musculature we think of the big boys: muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, polio and multiple sclerosis. We rarely think that arthritis and stroke can affect the musculature, but these are both conditions that can negatively affect the muscles in your foot and ankle.

An orthosishelps to control range of motion, provide support by stabilizing walking, correct deformities, and manage pain loads. A podiatrist should be consulted for those who have experienced direct trauma to the foot or ankle, have an arthritic condition that is affecting their joints, or have developed another kind of muscular disease.

Both designs and materials for orthoses have dramatically improved, allowing for new levels of comfort, functionality, and appearance. Many orthosesare now made from plastics in the shape of an L and are designed to fit inside a corrective shoe. These can be rigid, buckling at the calf and extending the length of the foot to support the ankle. This same design, except with a hinged ankle, provides support while walking by normalizing the gait. In the past, boots lined with leather and fiberboard provided the rigidity needed for correction and support. Now, corrective shoes are available with built up soles to correct gait or manage pain by sharing it with another area when the foot spreads during walking. To determine what type of orthotic is most suited to your feet and needs, consult with your podiatrist.

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