Understanding the Pediatric AFO brace for kids (Ankle Foot Orthotics) and choosing the best ones for my child

Caring for a child is different than caring for an adult, and that's why AFOs adapt to little ones: to take their growth into account and help them regain mobility. We give them independence in their movement, help them play, run and explore to experience their childhood fully.

What is a Pediatric AFO, and how does it work?

Pediatric AFOs are devices that look like a hard plastic boot, and your child can wear them to help perform certain movements or lighten the load for a specific area of the body. They are designed to help treat illnesses or syndromes, such as deformities and foot drop.

Wearing pediatric AFOs can treat which diseases?

Pediatric ankle foot orthotics (AFO), also called orthopedic devices, are used to treat many foot and leg disorders, ranging from simple foot injuries to genetic conditions. They are used for:

  • plasticity of the legs and feet
  • hip dysplasia
  • foot pronation
  • foot supination
  • misalignment of the foot or ankle
  • metatarsus varus or metatarsus adductus
  • tibial torsion
  • clubfoot

Depending on the condition to be treated and with advice from a specialist, an orthotic shoe may be sufficient (as with foot supination), or wearing pediatric AFO braces may be necessary (as with hip dysplasia).

What effect will a Pediatric AFO have on my child? 

With a doctor's diagnosis, a Pediatric AFO can be prescribed for your child, most often with physical treatment. The AFO helps the therapist teach your child how to properly position their foot and maintain this position.

Pediatric AFOs offer the wearer stable support for their lower limbs, thus providing a proper foundation for learning to walk. This will correct the effect of deformities that could have led to swaying to move rather than walking.

However, even continuously using an orthotic will not directly impact the correction of bone growth or correct a permanent defect. These devices should also be fitted properly to avoid damaging the skin or tissue.

What type of pediatric AFO and follow-up are best?

To get an AFO, you must first get a medical diagnosis for your child. The latter will, according to your child's needs and medical situation, direct you to a second specialist: an orthotist.

The orthotist will determine the size and type of AFO that will best suit its future wearer. Ready-to-use models do exist, but they will also be able to recommend and order a custom one. 

Then, after modeling your child's foot and ankle, a more suitable, comfortable custom orthotic will be made. Several fittings and subsequent visits will be helpful to adjust the device as needed, particularly according to your child's growth.

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How to wear an AFO brace for kids properly?

Once the diagnosis has been given and the AFO is custom-made, there is still the most important task for your child: wearing the device. However, during early childhood and adolescence, getting used to wearing a device every day can be restrictive. That is why good habits must be made, and there are tips to make your job easier.

It is hard enough to get your child to wear a jacket or a pair of shoes that they dislike. As with clothing, having an orthotic that suits your child's taste can help them accept the device and wear it without complaining. 

As such, you'll find AFO braces for kids in all sorts of colors and patterns. In fact, even the fasteners can be personalized. If you can't choose the color of your child's orthotic, fun stickers or quality waterproof paint can be a good alternative for personalizing it.

Information that might be of interest to you

What socks to wear with a pediatric AFO brace?

This may seem like a small detail, but wearing socks with certain qualities is advised by specialists for several reasons. They actually agree on wearing socks that are as large as the orthotic and designed with little or no stitching.

A sock that is too short with visible seams won't protect from plastic or straps chafing against bare skin, which may cause discomfort or even irritation of the skin. Socks that are too thick are also not recommended, as they could press on the lower limbs too much once the orthotic is implemented.

What shoes to wear with pediatric AFO braces?

After receiving your AFO and choosing the right socks, there is one last detail to look at to make sure that the AFO can be used properly by your child: their shoes. Some brands have specially created shoes suitable for orthotics, but with a few simple rules, everyday shoes can be quite suitable. For this, you will need to do the following:

  • Choose shoes one size up: go one or two sizes bigger than the usual size
  • Choose a large pair: they will fit better
  • Choose a pair with straps or fasteners: they will adjust more easily
  • Try the pair on with the AFO at the store

How to wear a pediatric AFO brace all day

Having a custom-made device, as well as socks and shoes that fit properly, will significantly help with wearing the device, as it will appeal to your child. However, they should not wear a device worn every day at night. The key to making wearing the orthotic a habit is doing it progressively.

Start by having your child wear the pediatric AFO brace for just one or two hours a day, several times a day. After a week, increase the amount of time the device is worn, as well as the frequency. Without realizing it, wearing the AFO will become a habit because your child will notice the difference when they aren't wearing it.

A pediatric AFO brace that is safe and effective

Faced with the many devices on the market and because your child's well-being is so important, it can be hard to know which model to choose. That is why the pediatric AFO braces from TurboMed will meet your expectations. Their durable pediatric AFO fits movements snugly thanks to a system of springs that makes movement light, and even powerful when needed.

TurboMed has manufactured a line of AFO braces called the Xtern, which are singular in that they can be adjusted to any type of shoe since they attach to their external surface. The fact that these custom-made braces attach to the outside of shoes and boots makes them easy to use and offers your child comfort and flexibility. 

These orthotics stand out because they are tested to withstand intense physical and sporting conditions, which makes Xtern AFO braces a quality choice for children who still want to enjoy their favorite sports and regain the freedom of movement that so few AFOs offer.