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6 Common Types of Ankle Foot Orthosis (AFO) Braces

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Different types of AFO braces exist to target numerous problems of the foot and lower leg.

Getting familiar with these devices will help you learn more about their benefits and indications.

AFO, or ankle foot orthosis, is a device used to treat a range of foot and ankle injuries, musculoskeletal, and neurological conditions.

Now, let’s see which are the most common variations of AFO brace and what they are used for.

6 Common Types Of AFOs

man putting a black AFO on his feet

There are numerous types of ankle-foot orthosis that a professional can recommend because this device is wildly used in the orthotic management of ankle and foot injuries and conditions.

Since not all types of ankle braces are commonly used, we’ll get more into detail about the ones that you’re more likely to need.

Another thing to know is that multiple types of braces can be prescribed for the same condition.

For example, a study researched solid and hinged braces and the effects they had on gait in children with cerebral palsy. Both types performed equally well.

#1 Solid

A solid ankle-foot orthosis doesn’t allow any movements and is used to improve the gait patterns of patients, including forefoot abduction, excessive pronation, better ankle stability, and more.

This is usually a custom-made device, individually fitted for the needs of a patient. The patient can also get a bootie that goes inside the brace to support and improve joint kinematics.

Solid ankle-foot orthoses are larger and bulkier compared to other types of braces, but they are efficient for conditions that require no ankle movement during recovery.

A con of the solid type is that it can have a negative effect on the knee joint and knee kinematics if the patient is suffering from moderate knee instability.

Before a doctor prescribes one of these devices, he does in-depth gait analysis to determine which one is the best for the specific case.

Some indications for a solid brace include plantar fasciitis, arthritis, posterior tibial tendon dysfunction, drop foot, pes plano valgus, Charcot arthropathy, fractures, and more.

#2 Hinged

Hinged, or articulated AFOs, come with an adjustable hinge at the ankle. This device is made of two parts, one that covers the foot part and one that covers the tibial part of the lower leg.

The two sections are connected using hinges, and that’s why the device allows limited ankle motion. The hinges control side-to-side, up, and down movements.

Hinged braces don’t permit excessive ankle plantarflexion during the swing phase but will let a patient do ankle dorsiflexion in stance.

There is a wide range of articulated AFOs to choose from, and the best thing is that you can adapt the size of the hinge to the size of your feet.

You should always wear the device with shoes, preferably with Velcro straps. This is recommended because the brace needs extra stability.

Hinged braces are best used for patients with cerebral palsy, cerebrovascular accident, foot drop, medial and lateral instability, hemiplegic patients, stress fractures.

One common contraindication for articulated braces is excessive ankle dorsiflexion.

This usually appears among older children who have cerebral palsy. That’s why these kids should be treated with a different type of brace.

#3 Dynamic

A dynamic brace is made of a more flexible material and has a flexible hinge. Although the device is dynamic, it still provides great support and bigger efficiency of gait as the treatment advances.

#4 Posterior Leaf Spring

This is a flexible type of brace that permits passive ankle dorsiflexion. The posterior leaf spring ankle foot orthosis is built with a spring placed in the posterior foot plate.

The spring can slightly increase the walking speed of patients and make the experience much easier for them.

Some of the indications that it’s used to treat include instable gait in patients, mild spastic equinus, foot drop, forefoot abduction, and more.

#5 Carbon Fiber

The carbon fiber ankle-foot orthosis is a sagittal plane brace that can work for patients who struggle with excessive supination or pronation.

It’s made of carbon fiber and it’s one of the latest medical advancements. This brace is designed with a flat footplate and a foot orthosis.

Thanks to the unique design, the ankle angle, knee, and hip range are slightly elevated.

It’s most suitable for people with a mild coronal plane deformity, foot drop, hemiparetic stroke patients, minimal equinus contracture, and more.

#6 Ground Reaction

Ground reach ankle-foot orthoses are also known as floor reaction orthoses. They come with an anterior shell that allows a ground reaction and ideal dorsiflexion.

It controls the ankle joint movement and limits heel eversion, crouch gait patterns, forefoot abduction, and excessive pronation. 

The best patients for this brace are the ones who suffer from spinal cord injuries, osteoarthritis, spina bifida, PTTD, cerebral palsy, and more.

Related: How to Wear an AFO Brace?

Who Needs An AFO

After looking through your gait perimeters, finding the cause of the ankle and foot injury, or other condition, the doctor will be able to give you a diagnosis.

There are numerous indications for ankle foot orthoses, but we want to mention once again the most common ones.

Let’s start with ankle joint injuries and fractures. The next on the list is foot drop, another extremely common reason people might need one of these braces is foot drop.

A large group of indications is neurological and musculoskeletal diseases like cerebral palsy, ALS, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, and more.

FAQs

What are AFO braces used for?

These braces are aids that aim to bring back the normal gait of patients and are used to treat ankle, foot injuries, fractures, ALS, drop foot, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, plantar fasciitis, sprains, patients with stroke, and more.

What is a posterior leaf spring AFO?

A posterior leaf spring brace with a flexible posterior foot plate and a rigid front toe plate. The brace creates energy with every step you make and creates a better, more effortless experience for users.

Conclusion

Knowing all the different types of ankle foot orthoses is excellent, but when the time comes to choose the best AFO, you should talk to a professional.

Treating your condition or injury right, targeting the gait deviation, and correcting the degrees of ankle damage, can only be done with the proper diagnosis.

Some of the braces that we listed today are also divided into other subcategories and come in a variety of designs. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to AFOs; that’s why an orthopedist’s opinion comes first. 

References:

  • “An Ankle-Foot Orthosis May Improve Your Walking.” n.d. Verywell Health. https://www.verywellhealth.com/ankle-foot-orthosis-2696288.
  • DALVAND, Hamid, Leila DEHGHAN, Awat FEIZI, Seyed Ali HOSSEINI, and Susan AMIRSALARI. 2013. “The Impacts of Hinged and Solid Ankle-Foot Orthoses on Standing and Walking in Children with Spastic Diplegia.” Iranian Journal of Child Neurology 7 (4): 12–19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3943047/.
  • “Lower Extremity Orthotics & AFO’s | Orthotic & Prosthetic Lab, Inc.” n.d. Www.oandplabinc.com. https://www.oandplabinc.com/lower-extremity-orthotics.html.
  • “Types of Ankle Foot Orthosis – AFO Brace Types.” 2021. Scheck & Siress. February 1, 2021. https://www.scheckandsiress.com/blog/types-of-ankle-foot-orthosis/.
  • “Using AFO: What to Expect?” n.d. Align Clinic. Accessed June 15, 2021. https://www.align-clinic.com/blog/what-is-afo-and-how-does-it-impact-peoples-lives.
  • “What Are AFOs and How to Use Them?” n.d. Align Clinic. Accessed June 15, 2021. https://www.align-clinic.com/blog/everything-you-need-to-know-about-afos.
a man wearing a dynamic afo brace, one of the different types of afo braces

What do you think of the different types of AFO braces? Share with us below!

About Martina Todorovska

Martina is a graduated Doctor of Dental Medicine with a huge obsession for anything beauty-related. Her freelance writing started out as a creative outlet and turned out to be a full-time job. If you have any beauty questions, the chances are Martina has the answers. Find her on Instagram at @martinatodorovska and LinkedIn

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