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Finding Shoes that Fit AFOs

Shoe shopping tips that every caregiver should know to find shoes that fit over braces.

Finding shoes that fit over AFOs can be a challenge, especially the very first time your child is fitted. While finding the right fit is still a challenge, I learned lessons early to ease the stress associated with buying shoes. My hope is that my tips will lessen your stress and potential heartache. Are you a family member or friend who needs a gift idea for a special AFO-wearer in your life? Ask their caregiver if sponsoring shoes would be helpful.

  1. Avoid heartache associated with taking your child to a shoe store. When they are old enough for an opinion but not old enough to understand the situation, I would avoid the heartache. It will mostly be yours. See my post “The Day Buying Shoes for AFOs Broke my Heart“.
  2. Know that it takes time to find shoes in a store and “cute ones” are hard to come by. A few brands that give you have a higher likelihood to find wide and extra-wide are rare in store for young children, even for brands that make the width. They are: Stride Rite, New Balance, Saucony, Sketchers, DC, and Converse. You may have success at Payless ShoeSource, Walmart, or Kohl’s. I have heard of a couple of light up pairs at Walmart for boys and at Kohl’s for girls. At one point, I ordered pairs of Princess Shoes and Dora the Explorer shoes from Payless ShoeSource’s website but they, sadly, have been discontinued.
  3. Shop online, if possible. After repeated disappointing trips, I now only buy shoes on the Internet. When she has a new set of braces, I order a couple sizes and send back what doesn’t fit. I also tend to stick to brands/styles I know work. Ordering on the Internet can be hit or miss but it is how we have to do it. My favorite places to shop are Amazon.com and Shoebuy.com. The options remain limited but with quick, free shipping and easy returns, I find it the easiest that I have found so far. For more ideas, visit AFOwear on Pinterest.

Visit our page, Tips for Everyday Orthotic Wear, for more tips related to adjusting and wardrobe. If you found this helpful or know someone who would, please share.

Coming Soon: AFOwear Shoe Search for a convenient way to find your favorite AFO-friendly shoe brands.

AFO shoes

The Day Buying Shoes for AFOs Broke My Heart

I am constantly challenged while shopping for shoes to fit over my daughter’s AFOs and KAFOs. My experience is really what sparked action to create this website. I don’t have all the answers but I have learned ways to make it easier. Here’s the story of the moment I realized this wasn’t going to be easy. We also added the Tips for Everyday Orthotic Wear and Finding Shoes that Fit with ideas that I hope help. I am not a doctor or orthotist. I am just a mom hoping to help other parents in a similar situation.

How I felt when my daughter first got her braces

When my daughter was 17 months old, she got her first sets of AFOs and KAFOs that allowed her to stand for first time in her life. I was so excited to get these first sets of braces. They were the key to getting her on her feet so she could one day walk! What’s not to be excited about?!

Our first shopping trip to buy shoes to fit over braces brought me to my knees

My family arrived home from a medical trip out of state to pick up her first set of AFOs and KAFOs. She had school the next day so she had to have shoes to go over her braces. So, that Sunday evening, we went to the shoe store to get Ariana’s first pair of shoes. Super exciting as she hadn’t worn shoes before!

I had prepared myself for this, I thought. It wouldn’t be so bad because I got tips from my mom friends with children in braces. I heard that Payless Shoe Source had a pair of shoes that would work. So, that’s where we chose to shop on our rushed timing. When you get braces for the first time, you don’t know the size until you have them.

That first trip was an epic fail! Our mistake was taking Ariana into the shoe store. We didn’t know this was a bad plan. We needed her to try them on. The problem was she wanted the cool princess light-up shoes. I wanted so badly to give her the princesses and flashy lights. She had never worn shoes and I wanted to give her what she wanted.

So, we sat on the floor in the back of the aisle and started trying them on. Nope, not a single pair she chose fit. I found one pair of shoes in the whole infant section that was extra wide that accommodated her KAFOs. The only good news was that we found a pair of shoes; a single pair within an aisle-long selection. I tried to convince her that these were awesome while all she wanted were the princess shoes. I cried. In the store I tried to hold back the tears, but I could not.

That day changed how I shop, I learned to never take her shoe shopping. In fact, I do not go into a store to try to find shoes. It was such a disheartening experience. 

From there, I ordered a couple of pairs in different sizes and found some that fit. Once I found that pair, I continued to order that style until she was no longer a size that they made. Ordering on the internet is hit or miss but it is how we have to do it. It works for us. We still get the basic sneaker and don’t buy anything trendy. After I found a pair of Stride Rite shoes that worked, I got brave and went into a Stride Rite store (by myself). I figured it would be safe to go to the store. Ariana was obsessed with Abby Cadabby from Sesame Street. I found a pair of shoes that “looked” like they would work and took them home. That was epic fail #2; she couldn’t even put her toe in the shoe. Of course, it was just a dream that I could get my daughter a pair of cute shoes with her favorite character. I had to return them the next day and go the next size up and they still didn’t work. I apologized profusely to Ariana for disappointing her and returned the shoes and came home empty handed.

So, this is our life. Basic sneakers with not much excitement, ordered in-advance online. We are not able to find anything on trend or that are fun for children. Shoes with favorite characters or light-up soles are rare and not easily found, especially quickly. This is life and I know there could be worse problems.

This is why finding shoes that fit over braces is my most stressful wardrobe challenge.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the shoes you will buy to fit over braces. There are different types of braces that affect shoe fit. The universal problem seems to be shoe width toe box depth (how much room there is in the toe area). The challenge is that you really need the brace to know the appropriate shoe size and width. This makes shopping a challenge when you need shoes the same or next day.

Visit our Tips for Everyday Orthotic Wear page for ideas on how to approach shoe shopping and lessen stress. Please share if you found it helpful or know someone who it may help.