Updated: Aug 26, 2019
Ankle-foot orthosis (AFO) are braces for the lower leg and foot that are often prescribed to patients with gait abnormalities. They are lightweight plastic braces composed of a plastic material that can be secured to the calf with the use of a strap; this strap also runs along and under the foot. The foot itself sits in an accommodative shoe, thus AFOs possess a characteristic L-shape, which in effect assists by holding the foot and ankle in the appropriate position when performing certain tasks. Individuals suffering from disorders that severely affect muscular function, i.e. stroke, spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy, and polio patients have a greater need for such devices in order to reedy irregularities that may occur in movement, especially during gait. AFOs can work in two ways: either correctly positioning a limb with contracted musculature in the normal position or supporting the waist or weak limbs.
Articulated or hinged AFOs are made up of two separate components that are not continuous with each other but instead “articulate” with one another with a hinge mechanism. While the components themselves are composed of plastic, the joints/hinges are usually made with metal or other composite materials. The hinged moment present in these AFOs allow unrestricted and free movement of the ankle joint. These AFOs are often prescribed to reduce the rigidity in movement so that patients can perform daily tasks (e.g. walking up the stairs or rising from a chair).
Richie braces is a custom ankle brace that is made by taking a patient’s cast. This type of brace is also used to treat chronic conditions of the foot and ankle, where the muscles are not working effectively. This brace can also be used for a number of conditions including drop-foot, ankle injuries, severe flat foot, and tendon damages. It is a lightweight sports design that is preferred by patients who are very active. It comes with leg uprights for maximum support and as it is custom-made, it perfectly fits the ankle joint axis of a patient’s foot. Moreover, it has an orthotic base that is also specifically moulded to your foot.
However, with all the AFOs they do need to wear proper shoes to fit into. Shoes with an adjustable strap, wide heel cup and stable back and base are preferred. This brace provides a wonderful non-surgical option to complex pathologies of the leg, foot, and ankle.
Overall, the ankle-foot orthosis is an efficient therapy for weak lower extremity musculature areas and can effectively substitute for weak muscle groups in the leg. However, considerations are necessary to ensure that the AFO chosen will be able to successfully remedy the given condition.