It has been almost three months since I received my ankle-foot orthosis braces (AFOs), and I am finally learning to accept them. I have been wearing them almost all day and to all types of functions. They do help me walk better and decrease my typical fatigue levels.
But as I wear them more often and for longer periods of time, I am noticing some issues. They are minor issues, and my orthotist is willing to work with me. Following are some of my thoughts on the AFOs so far:
Pain and fitting troubles
As I wear the braces more often, I find they hurt my feet in different places. The heel on one foot sometimes hurts so badly that I need to remove the brace and give my foot a rest. I also feel at times that the AFO doesn’t support my ankle enough.
I brought these problems to my orthotist’s attention (who is different than the one I started this AFO journey with), and he said he would have a completely different type of brace fitted for me. I am not ready to try a different type just yet, though, as I am finally getting used to the ones I have.
We decided to keep them as is and try a few small adjustments. I put a thin insole over the top of the brace to add cushioning, and that has helped with the heel pain.
The orthotist suggested I look for a sturdier shoe with more support around the ankle. At the time, I was wearing soft, stretchable Mary Jane-type shoes because they help with my painful hammer toe, are dressy for nice occasions, and the material of the shoes hurts my feet less than rigid, leather shoes. The orthotist suggested a few brands of shoes, but of course they are all very expensive. I’ll have to keep looking for a supportive, comfortable shoe.
Discrete and helpful
I am slowly learning to embrace my braces, but it has been a learning experience. At first, I was terrified of what others might think when they saw my braces. The first time I wore them with a skirt, I was pleasantly surprised that no one even noticed. No one said anything or even glanced twice at my legs. I guess I am the only one who thinks twice about them.
I am finding that I can walk faster and keep up with my friends and students. That is something I have not been able to do for a long time. And again, I am noticing that I am not as fatigued from walking and being on my feet all day. Those are nice benefits. I am finding it easier to do many things, except steps — those are still awkward for me. My orthotist recommended physical therapy to help with the steps and maybe gain some stability in my ankles. I figure it doesn’t hurt to try.
Overall, I am adjusting to my AFOs. Even though I don’t really like them, I can see the benefits. I am hopeful that with the right shoe and fit, I will grow more fond of them. I have a feeling this will be a journey of many ups and downs, twists and turns.
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