AFO Orthotic Services
An AFO stands for Ankle-Foot Orthosis.
An AFO is generally used to control the ankle joint in some way, address instability in the lower limb and promote a more natural walking motion. It is important to know there are different versions of AFOs (described lower on this page).
They may be used to support people living with a wide range of physical and neurological conditions. Some examples of pathologies requiring an AFO include:
- Dorsiflexion weakness causing foot drop
- Severe Tibialis posterior dysfunction
- Ankle osteoarthritis (requires total immobilisation)
- Plantar flexion contractures (inverse to a dorsiflexion weakness) to help keep the ankle in a neutral position
Orthotics Plus is experienced in providing both pre-made and custom-made AFOs to the Melbourne community.
Our patients include adults, paediatrics, workcover/TAC patients, NDIS participants and private paying clients.
Types of AFOs
There is an array of AFOs that control the ankle and foot in different ways.
AFOs can be pre-made or custom-made. They are typically made out of acrylic plastic or carbon fibre. Your Orthotist will guide you on the correct type for your needs.
The overarching purpose of an AFO fitting is to manage pain, provide stability and develop a more natural walking pattern.
These are designed to completely immobilise the foot and ankle at an appropriate angle.
These are characterised by a joint mechanism allowing movement in the ankle.
They can be tightened or loosened.
Depending on how much movement the Orthotist wants to allow.
Ground Reaction Ankle-Foot Orthosis
Typically used for people exhibiting quadricep weakness by applying an anterior force at the knee.
Posture Dynamic Element
These provide extra support to the calf region.
They use a carbon fibre strut to connect the calf to the foot. The strut can be of varying stiffness depending on the needs of the patient.
Leafspring AFO’s focus on lifting the foot during gait.
These designs are very thin and most commonly used for dorsiflexion weakness (foot drop).
Being light, they aren’t suitable for patients requiring higher levels of stability or those with medial/lateral ankle instability
AFO Referrals for Orthotics Plus
The purpose of an AFO is to help your foot adopt the correct posture, referred to as subtalar neutral. As Orthotists, we believe helping people achieve this posture is very important as it translates to a higher quality or life.
All Orthotics Plus patients will receive information about:
- Pain management
- Preventing injury
- Overall body posture
Please note that all our AFO products are warrantied appropriately and we will provide you with ongoing support.
The AFO’s only as good as the shoe it’s in!
Generally speaking, the person would be required to wear practical shoes, such as runners, light boots, lace up shoes or office shoes to synchronise an AFO.
Footwear such as sandals, ballet shoes or thin flat shoes are not appropriate, but there are a few exceptions which we can discuss with you.
We understand that people may have a preference for more fashionable shoes, in this case, our Orthotist will help you choose new shoes as many options now exist.
Yes, we stock a small range of shoes.
We also have the ability to order shoes from a supplier, and if they’re not the right fit, we have the option of returning them.
We can arrange custom made shoes if needed.
The usage of either of these largely depends on the patient and what we are aiming to achieve.
For example, for a 150kg patient requiring a rigid device, plastic would flex, so we would use carbon fibre laminate, which is reinforced through a pre-impregnated resin system.
While carbon fibre laminates are generally stronger, thinner and lighter, they’re more difficult to modify and less flexible after fabrication, so it’s situational.
If a patient has a strong preference for either we will factor this into our prescription.
At Orthotics Plus we prefer the ‘just enough’ approach to management.
The style of device selected will match your stage of recovery and allow you to function as effectively as possible, while still allowing you to gain or maintain your body’s own abilities.
For patients in the very early stages of recovery, we may encourage something like an FES system which maximises rehabilitation and neuroplasticity. During this time we must consider safety and other factors too.
We recommend long socks that will create a barrier between the skin and the AFO.
The material of the sock is the preference of the client.
Pre-made AFOs are often suitable for people with a simpler diagnosis.
Custom made AFOs are used for patients with a complex clinical presentation or unusual anatomy or if the Orthotist determines this will result in a better outcome.
In most cases, the use of an AFO is ongoing.
There are cases (such as trauma patients) where an AFO is used short-term.
The type of AFO a patient requires can change as their situation changes, for example, if muscle strength and coordination improves post-stroke or partial spinal cord injury, the AFO design may change or usage may be ceased altogether.
Most growing children will require a re-assessment approximately every 12 months.
We suggest making an appointment with us ASAP if your child complains of an AFO feeling too tight or you notice rubbing.
We ensure our clinics are sufficiently staffed so you should be able to see your Orthotist within a day or two