Shoes That Fit Over AFOs

Many children with disabilities will require some type of foot bracing. There are several options, but one of the most popular is the AFO, which stands for Ankle Foot Orthotic. Big and bulky, finding shoes that fit over them can be a pain.

Charlie’s first AFO shoes were from the company Hatchbacks. Hatchbacks are shoes designed specifically to go over AFOs. They come with a down-loadable sizing chart to guarantee fit. They also come with a steep price tag and are on the heavy side.

When Charlie first began using a gait trainer, he had a lot of trouble picking up his feet and the PT thought maybe his shoes were slowing him down. I headed out to get something lighter and the therapists kept asking me where I had gotten those great shoes! I thought I’d share my trick with you. There are two things you should know about this video: one, I forgot to say that your shoes should be at least 4 sizes larger than your child’s usual shoe. Less than this might still fit the AFO, but it may be hard to lace or velcro.  Second, I am slouching horribly in this chair. My husband assured me that I looked “relaxed,” but I think “sloppy” is a better term. Oh well. Don’t judge me too harshly–it took me three tries to get through this without laughing hysterically.

Other places that sell shoes that fit over orthotics:

Keeping Pace–limited choices, but they do have boots.

Piedro footware carries shoes that have the orthosis built in.Not too sure what the PT would say about that, but might be good for occasions where you’re not sure if you need orthotics or not, but want to have options.

Would love to hear from you guys about tips for buying shoes that fit over orthotics. No need to tell me to sit up straight and not slouch–the video speaks for itself on that one!

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Comments

  1. Love this, I do EXACTLY the same thing! We have about 10 pairs of little shoes from Target and Payless that I was determined to make work so that he could have cute shoes. This summer was great, I found sandals that were open and just had 2 velcro straps they were SO easy.

  2. I look for tennis shoes with a wide toebox and laces that come close to the toe. I always bought Noah regular shoes with those specs to go over his afo’s. Oh! You can also take out the liner so you only have to go 3 sizes larger than 4! LOL

  3. Katy, first of all you look great and I love your hair!

    We have been buying the converse one-star shoes from Target for a while now. Because the tops are canvas, it is a little easier to get the backs to mold around the AFO and we don’t have to buy the shoes in sizes so much larger than the actual foot size. I usually either take the laces out of the top hole or buy longer laces so there is plenty of room for the width of the AFO. We have not yet had to buy wide widths, though I think we would have to do that if we used shoes with velcro fasteners.

    Also, Target has some good quality knee-high socks which are cotton with a little elastic. They come in two-packs and have a slight pattern in the stitching. We always get the white ones but I think they may have another pack that has a couple of colors (maybe pink and purple?). We find them in the young girls clothing section by the underwear. Not sure if they have the equivalent in the boys section. They are great and have just the right amount of height to fold over the top of the AFO.

  4. I was told long ago about Converse shoes being fabulous for AFO’s. That’s what I’ve been buying ever since. The hi-top gives extra support (even if he’s not wearing his AFO’s – I buy shoes that fit his actual foot, too) AND the tongue is long so you can get the brace in there pretty easy if you loosen the laces as much as possible. If you get them on sale, they are usually about $20.

    Also, you can design your own at their website for about $40. I plan to do this as soon as Eli can wear that big of a shoe. (He’s still in toddler size 6 w/o AFO’s – and I bought 8′s to wear with his AFO’s.)
    I figure since people can’t buy him traditional gifts for BD and Christmas….that it’s a great thing to spend his gift money on. :)1

    • Y’all are killing me with this converse talk. I could run to Target right now to get some–too bad they’re closed. I LOVE converse and think they are SO CUTE on little boys.

      • TJ Maxx also has a lot of Converse. I’d think that Converse would also work well because they don’t have a lot of padding in the sole anyway, so that’s less bulk to get in the way of the AFO.
        Great video, by the way. I think I would catch a serious case of the “ums” if I were on film! :)

    • Amy, I’m SO designing Peyton’s next pair (with input from her, of course)! How cool!

  5. I have nothing to add. (That’s a compliment.) Admire your v-log!

    • Cristina, Bertrand’s Mom reminded us last night by tweet – Crocs can be used, too. I esp liked that you recommended taking the brace to the store to fit the shoe. I often recommend that to parents whose child has just received the first pair of braces. The subsequent comments regarding a child who wears just one brace give good tips for the problems of needing two different sizes.

  6. SO helpful! We have Hatchbacks and, yeah, they’re a rip-off but they’re also durable and they last. Before that, we used to get extra-wide sneakers from Payless and I found they did the trick, too.

  7. I’ll be checking back to see if your commenters have other things to say about single AFOs – we have used baby Robeez (they stretch) then we were given Keeping Pace shoes from Shriner’s where we get our AFO. Mo sent me a right AFO modified Stride Rite pair that we have not grown into yet. Has anyone ever really gone to Nordstrom and will they really sell you two sizes of the same shoe as pair? I hear this but haven’t tested it. I thought the Keeping Pace shoes were awfully Frankenbaby clunky but she does fly about in them and they have different inserts so you can take some out to have the shoes match height more if you use only one AFO.

    • Yes Nordstrom is awesome! They will sell you 2 different sized of shoes if the other foot (w/ afo/smo) is I think at least 1-1/2 sizes bigger than the other. For a while, my son wore one AFO and it got really expensive to buy 2 different pairs of shoes. Then, my PT said that Nordstrom did this and sure enough, they were more than willing to help me fit my son in some “cute” shoes! I highly reccommend Nordstrom if your child is only wearing one AFO. Good Luck :)

  8. My daughter’s AFO’s have the Vibram grip on the bottom so technically she doesn’t need to wear shoes with them and nobody in Hawaii wears shoes anyway but, I have found that “skater” shoes fit really well. Brands like DC or Etnies, Nike even has a line. They’re really wide and have a big opening. However, some may think they’re a bit heavy so I compared two different shoes and couldn’t feel a noticeable difference. Also, they can be pricey but if you catch a sale you can usually find a pair under 20. Anyway, great video. Thanks for making it, I’m anxious to hear what other Mom’s say.

  9. Good tips!

    New Balance also has some great xwide width, but can be pricey too.

    I couldn’t ever get the velcro ones to fold over enough for me, so I only buy lace up shoes. When doing so, I skip the top lace hole (near the toes), that seems to make it easier to slide in. We also have put a small slit on the heel & removed the padding, then reglued it. It makes it easier to slide in. You can usea piece of saran (plastic) wrap on the heel to stretch the shoe & slide in easier. Lastly, get a shoe horn. They help immensely. Since you used Payless in the video, they give you one for FREE!!!!

    As for the single AFO wearers: we used to only wear one. Stride Rite always gave me 50% off the second pair since I had to buy 2 different sizes. I never went to Nordstroms (not one here), but YES they do sell you two different sized shoes. I think you can even to do it online. they don’t sell you two pairs though for the price of one.

    We have had Answer Twos many times cause when we had the no skid on the bottom, it was hard to get the shoes to slide over. (we had no skid so we didn’t need shoes in the house like Justine said). They are pricey as well and VERY heavy. We need to get together with a manufacture and design a lightweight cheaper shoe without padding for AFOs. They say all the AFO shoes are designed by parents or AFO wearers, but I really dont believe that. If so, they would be way more affordable and have no weight to them!

    GREAT video & discussion to get to going!

  10. Thank you for this! I have had such a hard time finding shoes that Emily usually goes without! She just wears her AFO’s. However, I wanted to find something for when she starts school and I am definitely going to check out Converse at Target. When I have tried to get shoes to fit over her AFO’s in the past, I tried New Balance – they come in Extra Wide, but I still had to go up quite a few sizes and I felt like she looked like a clown! It is very frustrating! I just cannot bring myself to spend 60 dollars on a pair of shoes for her that she will grow out of fairly quickly. Off to Payless and Target I go…

  11. I have to chime in here…I’m even feeling the need to post about this now!

    First, because buying shoes to fit over AFO’s has left me in tears, standing in the middle of damn store, I disregard price if the shoe fits and I’ll go to any store to find what we need. I don’t even look at the price tag. And, second, I have never found that putting the AFO on the bottom of the shoe to check for a good fit was as easy as you say it is….so lucky you!

    Some things to keep in mind, velcro straps can be lengthened to wrap over the bulk of the brace. Any shoe repair or alteration shop can do this for you. And, do not be afraid to cut out the tongue of a tennis shoe to lessen the bulk. There is absolutely no need for that tongue when wearing a brace. With lace shoes it may look a little funny but we do this with Oia’s velcro strap tennis shoes and you’d never know the shoe was supposed to have a tongue, looks fine.

    • Emphasizing cutting out the tongue! Most everyone gets that the shoe needs to be long enough (length) and wide enough (width), but the space between the sole and the laces (height or depth) has to be accommodated for also. This is why it is so important to remove the insole. Otherwise the toe box will be too tight on top of the foot/toes.

  12. A lot of people are saying the the velcro ones don’t strap all the way over–that’s why I have to go up about four sizes to start. Smaller shoes will fit ove the AFO, but then they don’t strap.

    • Jack's Mom says:

      We had the same problem with velcro straps not being long enough. However, when we went in to pick up Jack’s new AFOs, the orthoptist said he could just sew a velcro extention on to them and it worked great! They had the same color as was already on his shoes and you can’t even tell. I’m learning not to be afraid to ask people if they can help me out with things like this, because the answer is usually “yes”!!

  13. Excellent topic! For the first few years we bought Vans at the outlet, skater-sneakers are very wide and most likely have laces over other kids’ shoes. Not old-school canvas Vans, but the wide suede styles.

    But this year I decided to ask our orthotic fitter if we were able to get the actual shoes made for AFOs covered by insurance. I’d seen some decent ones online. Little did I know they had their own brand called Answer2. So he just went ahead and ordered them without my seeing a photo. They are the absolute ugliest sneaker/shoe I’ve ever seen! But, they serve their purpose. I just won’t use them in public. I’ll just continue with the Vans. But it seems the Answer2 will wear much longer.
    Here’s the shoe: http://www.thewideshoes.com/223-3.html

    And next we need to discuss a proper sock. A few years ago The Children’s Place had a bunch of kelly green and pumpkin orange socks on super clearance @ 49 cents. I bought them all figuring they’d be worn under pants. But it turns out, we’ve yet to find a comparable sock to these! Their regualr socks aren’t as good. So the boys wear them all year round. Green socks with blue AFOs! Orange socks with red AFOs! Orange socks with blue AFOs….hehehehe!

    Thanks for the vlog Ms. Katy! I’ll forward to my mom group.

  14. Hi Katy!
    We have had a lot of luck with Stride Rite wide or extra wide sneakers. Normally I go in and buy every pair of shoes I can get my hands on, that are 1-2 sizes bigger than E’s “foot shoe size” (as opposed to “AFO shoe size”). I do this when we get our new AFOs in at our orthotist, b/c he needs to add a lift in-sole (E’s right leg is longer than her left, and there’s no room in the shoe with her AFO on to put in the lift there). Without the lift, E doesn’t have a functional shoe. So, I have 4 big bags of shoes and bring them to the official “fitting”, and then return what I don’t use. The actual pair might cost 20-40 dollars, which is expensive for kid’s shoes, but we have good relationship with the store so it’s worth it. It also makes my eyes bug out when I buy $400 dollars worth of shoe at once for my 5 yr old daughter (even though nearly all of it comes back to me…*gasp*).
    Our orthotist often sews on extra velcro to E’s shoe straps.
    I LOVE CONVERSE too, we bought pink ones for E once, but we couldn’t get her AFOs in them (they were high-tops).
    We’ve tried Hatchbacks. Since E is a budding walker, the shoes don’t work for us b/c they are so darn heavy! They’re over twice the weight of a typical sneaker…that won’t work for us. BUT the great news about H’backs (maybe another brand too?) is that Medicaid (Virginia Medicaid, anyway) will pay for ONE pair of shoes to go with her new set of AFOs. They call it essential to the workings of her AFOs, or something like that. We have to order the shoe through our orthotist. I’d try it at Stride Rite, but I doubt they take Medicaid. ;) Maybe Pietro shoes does? I’ll have to think about that one.

    Sad news, but due to cost, E only gets one pair of shoes. And that girl LOVES to accessorize. ;)

    Also, we use Children’s Place socks ALL THE TIME. They are the right height, and typically don’t slouch down in her braces. Finding socks (not just the effing shoes!) has been a struggle for us too.

  15. I second the Stride Rite shoes!!!!!!! All of Oia’s shoes are SR and we too have a great relationship with our SR store. We have found that Old Navy socks work best for us. We buy the tall, thin, tube-like ones and they come all the way up and over the AFO.

    • We buy the tube socks from Baby Gap, which I would guess are similar. Like you said, they come all the way up and then we fold them back over the AFO. I will now have to investigate Old Navy since I know they are cheaper.

    • Are they thick? I normally buy ON/Gap socks, the cuffed sock that’s on the thin side, for all my kids. We love them, but now my boys are outgrowing the largest size, the 5T. They’re 8 y/o. I’ll check out the Target socks …and the AFO socks! hmmmm….so glad I came here

  16. Did you know there is a sock designed for AFOs? It is seamless, we even have a special big toe separater in ours. AND MOST insurances pay for several pair! Check with your orthotists!

  17. Thanks for the video! I look for shoes that have as close to a 90-degree angle at the heel as I can find. Some athletic shoes are angled quite a bit, and I find that I have a very difficult time getting my daughter’s orthotics to slide into those shoes. Shoes with a back that goes up straight from the sole (like skater-type shoes, some Adidas, etc.) allow the orthotic to pop in much more easily. I have only needed to go up a size or two with this type of shoe. My daughter also started with a more expensive brand, and I also prefer the (cheaper) shoes I have purchased for her since.

  18. How cute are you!?!? :)

  19. Interesting that you posted this because Jude JUST got his braces yesterday. They have flames on them, ha!

  20. Great video and topic!! I was just discussing this with our PT today. We have been using the Stride Rite extra wide with velcro, but our PT suggested shoes with LACES are better. She stated to make sure the laces do not run completely parallel, rather the laces begin parallel, then travel away from each other toward the big and pinky toes. Does anybody know what that means, because I can’t seem to find any online? ;)

    Also, she said crocs can be great! Since the AFO is doing all the support for our kids feet…we just need to make sure there is a non slip bottom and the shoe keeps the braces on!

    Again, this video is GREAT! Thank you! I even like the kicks you picked out, I just may have to run to Payless tomorrow. Here is a 15% off coupon for anybody who may decide to do so as well:

    http://updates.payless.com/servlet/website/PersonalizedForm?sLllEVTTCTUVW.209yf.203LsJhtL.20.26tHpsE.26f7be_7.2e.2ey.26zzEkloLkpKHgFRhNkspDJht

  21. Here’s a question. Have any idead for shoes that go over an adult AFO? I was a wide before the AFO and am now a WW and then some. I have sneakers, but that’s about it except for one pair of $200 ugly black oxfords that I don’t wear much so they don’t wear out.

  22. Love the video. I had to laugh as you had to jam the heel in.
    We buy tsukihosi shoes for my daughters AFO’s and fit perfectly, the insole just lifts out and they are very light weight. My daughter loves girly shoes and they are the closest I can find to dress shoes. They are usually not too cheap but if yu find them at TJ Max they are under $20.
    Their website is tsukihoshi.com
    If only we could find boots to go over the AFO’s. I dread winter.

  23. See Kai Run shoes often open far enough for SMOs or AFOs to be put in. that’s what the word on the PT street is. :D

  24. oops, one more thing. and thanks for the sock tips, parents always ask me about those and i don’t know where to send them, since i don’t have kids myself!

    also, from a PT perspective: please and thank you with the no crocs with SMOs or AFOs! shoes that you can adjust the tightness on (velcro or lace-up) are infinitely better.

  25. Um…right. I don’t know how to directly reply to jwg – so I’m putting it here. Maybe someone else knows.

    So, I’m an adult who wears AFO’s and have found that converse are great. I also like New Balance sneakers (they come in gray, so they look a little less like sneakers. maybe.) I have a few pairs of MaryJane-ish sneakers I wear as dress shoes. Most of them I have thought would work (i.e., I could get them on), but then after wearing them for a while it was a no go (too small, too tight, too loose, etc.).

    If you have any other brilliant ideas (and know how to reply) let me know!!

  26. My six year old wears AFOs on both feet. She has always worn Answer2 (yes, ugly!) but comfy for her and easy to get on for me! I bought her Sketchers this year for school and they fit great. The issue now is snow boots. Any suggestions? She wore a pair of AIR WALKS last year from Payless but that was the largest toddler size. She now wears a size 12. Has anyone had luck with snow boots?

  27. I worked with Alan’s physical therapist and they came and measured his feet and his AFOs and found shoes that would work for him. I guess, sadly, that is one of the upsides of him living where he does, that the therapist came to him, did all the measurements and then sent me pictures of recommended shoes and we went from there. I did try to get him extra wide shoes from New Balance and Nike, but they did not work for us.

  28. THANK YOU! My son just received his SMOs today, but we didn’t have any shoes that would fit, so out to the stores we headed. I was almost in tears, store after store, NOTHING fit! My son was already wearing a wide shoe, so adding the SMO made putting on shoes now almost comical (to anyone but myself who wanted to cry). I can’t wait to head out tomorrow & give this a try!

  29. melanie volk-guffey says:

    I have tried to find my daughter a means of getting a new afo.. she’s been without medicaid for 6 months because they keep “loosing” her paper work and we have changed case workers 3 times and supervisors don’t ever call me back either and I’m about tired of waiting for them to get there stuff together.. I was wondering if anyone knew where I could find either an organization that could help with the costs of a new afo or if anyone knew where i could get a used toddler girls size 6 for left foot.. Any help would be great thanks!

  30. I’m glad to see postings about this it gives me some ideas for my 2 yr old son. Any idea on affordable afo socks been using smart knit @18$ a pair ouch

  31. Ty Kathy for tip on socks 20 for 5 still cheaper then 18 a pair Tyvm for tip. Its worth checking it out heck if I can get 5 pairs for the price one be nice. We ordered 6 pairs and only discount the gave us was free shipping @ smart knit, there great socks and all but Round 120 for 6 pairs wow! Ty again for tip.

  32. Just spoke Too Johns afo team he said gap socks be fine long as there’s no seemed toed. The top of sock folds over so not as big deal if ribbe @ top. He also says there’s new company called afo socks range from 4-5$ per pair based on afo sock size, many colors. Only downfall it’s. Oversea takes 2-4 wks delivery@ 14.95 shipping flat rate. He’s unsure if offer free s/h over certain amount. Figured share. He also said you can use sports knee highs long as breathable cotton, suggested going a size larger then foot make sure enough fold on top.

  33. Mealinie , yes there are groups if your child is up to age of 3 birth too 3 threw county will help there are grants to help with things from therapy swings, glasses, walkers afo, cranio caps ect. If u have in hm therapy w/out a doubt they can help. As well as speed process for Med paper work. I know from experience! It child’s over 3 and still in program involving therapy or on disability, our son should be but isn’t due to my mom protesting. The label & not accepting con.she’s thinks I should wait till 5 he’ll outgrow it. Back to subject sorry got off track disability becomes Med 19 a much better insurance. Long process sons workers say but worth it. In short contact your local birth to 3 ask them they know more then social & financial workers even if child’s over 3 they will point u in right direction.also if you have had afo currently if made at childrens hospital they usually do 1-2 free new afo because its included on first billing of first set. As for buying used for afo bad idea they’re custom made pet child & be a pain. If your atd department or orthopedic dep say your not covered fir new afo & can not adjust current one, they will still make new one, they will have you sign paper your responsible for what insurance doesn’t cover and you can submitted it within 90 days even if insurance lap. You just add that on past Med bills also they who make afo will make & bill 90 days later or when insurance goes into effect so it is covered explain situation @ afo place don’t be afraid to ask for higher up. They will work with you. Gl Mealine

  34. Megan's Mom says:

    My daughter has always used Princess Reebok. They work great for her. Her orthotist showed us to take out the inside bottom lining to make the shoe deeper, they don’t need it !

  35. I am currently trying to find shoes and let me tell you THIS SUCKS! Our ortho has told us to come with shoes to the appt to pick up the AFOs… tell me how to accomplish that? I mean I am shooting in the dang dark really! We go tomorrow at 4pm to pick up her first set and I am scratching my head. I found her a GREAT pair of sketchers that were light weight the sole was removable the sole was not chunky [so she wouldn't trip] then it dawned on me they were bungee not laces! So I put them up and refrained from buying them… I kept thinking the dr said laces. Although I thought wow these are perfect for my little girl they didn’t lace. This sucks and I am so annoyed that I am buying shoes without the AFO with me, it is really tough.

  36. Great video! I go to Payless to buy my sons shoes as well, cheapest place and they work great. I only have to buy one size larger than his AFO measures, but I buy lace up ones so that you can really get them open nice and wide before putting them on!
    Another trick you can do, is use a small shoe horn when putting the shoes on the child. It’s protects the back of the shoe and there foot and AFO slide in much easier!!

  37. I have been wearing AFO’s due to a spinal cord injury for over 15 years. This video is great advice, and illustrates what I have been doing for years. I would add a couple other suggestions:

    1. Look for shoes that have laces that extend a bit further out toward the toe. This makes it easier to loosen the laces and create a larger opening to get a foot in. Trust me, forcing a foot through a small opening can hurt.

    2. The shoe in the video is built with a reasonable amount of rocker (the toe curves up). This is important to help us keep from tripping, especially on carpet and grass. Some shoes are way too flat on the sole for use by those of us who use AFOs.

    3. Shop for shoes that either dip below, or extend high over the articulated hinge at the ankle, if your AFO’s are hinged. Otherwise, the shoes tend to wear out very fast.

    That loop at the back is a key design element for shoes that work well for AFOs. Everyone wants to be able to put their shoes on by themselves – and those loops really help.

    3. My favorite all time shoe for AFO’s are Merrell Jungel Moc’s. No laces or Velcro, the shoes slip on and the elastic gussets hold the shoes firmly in place without causing pressure points. They are light weight, some come with insulation, some with waterproofing, some with slip resistant soles and sticky rubber. They have an adequate rocker for me. They wear really well and don’t look like “prescription” shoes.

  38. Awesome shoes that I have bought for my 5 years old daughter who wears AFOs: Tsukihoshi, Stride Rite, Saucony. I have heard that Jumping Jacks fit well also. All these brands are pricey but totally worth it considering the looks and functionality as well as the comfort. You can find great sales online on endless.com, zappos.com, striderite.com and amazon.com depending on the size and model shoe. As far as socks go…knee hig socks from Gymboree…they have their seasonal clearences online where you can buy a pair for $0.99-$2.99.
    I hope this helps ;0)

  39. Oh ..and as far as snow boots go my little one has been wearing Disney Snow princess boots .The ones with the pom-pom laces.The velcro ones may work as well they are wide enough to comfortably fit over the afo..they are $20-$30 bucks depending on where you buy them.You can check Target, Famous Footwear, Ebay.