13 things I’ve learned during the great shoe hunt

Children with cerebral palsy usually have what’s called a foot drop, where the ankles are tight and the toes/feet point downwards like a ballerina. It’s one of the first signs of a neurological disorder — and Anna’s had it since she was born.

An ankle-foot orthosis, or AFO, is a brace support with the purpose of controlling position and motion of the ankle, compensate for weakness or correct deformities. AFOs can be used to support weak limbs, or to position a limb with contracted muscles into a more normal position. You normally have to buy shoes that fit over the AFOs, although sometimes they’ll put soles directly on the braces so you don’t have to bother hunting. Because, it really is a hunt.


  1. Don’t buy shoes just because they’re pretty and glittery. On the other hand, you ARE going to be looking at them a lot, so it’s be a bonus if they’re not hideous.
  2. Get rid of the insole layer that comes in the shoe. Just throw them away, or keep them if they’re fancy and made out of memory foam (like ours).
  3. Those great brands like Nike, ASICS, Skechers? Nada. Go for the cheapo ones from K-Mart or Walmart – I’ve found way better luck there, and also cheaper is sometimes better because you’ll be doing stuff to them. Like…

  4. Try snipping a few threads that hold the toe box closed, around the attached end of the tongue. If the material stretches at certain points, you can make a minor cut to provide more room.
  5. This worked for us, but try leaving the top velcro strap loose so that your child has more range of motion.
  7. Also, when picking from all those cute custom designs, remember sometimes cute little faces get stretched out. Lol:20170823_132454
  8. Velcro straps are good. We ended up with ties, but velcro straps would be way easier to put on. Also, AFOs tend to be clunky to wear, so find shoes that are as light as possible.
  9. Bring your child’s AFOs with you on your Great Shoe Hunt. And if you’re bringing your child, bring lots of snacks and toys.
  10. AFOs usually come with little paddings that the therapists and I like to call potato chips. Sometimes your child won’t need them, but they seem to provide endless entertainment and are good distractions as hats.
  11. Consider putting them on your baby while she’s hanging out in the stroller, carseat, high chair, etc, so she gets used to having them on.
  12. MENTALLY PREPARE YOURSELF. I bought six different shoes to find the right one. Save all your receipts, and be prepared to return most of those shoes. It tends to be a long quest, but trust me, it’s a relief finding the right pair in the end!
  13. Best of all, I have learned how fast babies get adjusted to new things. Anna is now nearly 80% used to them, and can now furniture cruise (Kruse, get it, aha…) and cross vast bridges from coffee table to walker/chair/sofa with ease. As soon as she starts walking, they’ll be on whenever she is awake, so hoping that they’ll last us a couple years.



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