Ankle Foot Orthosis For Foot Drop: Types and Benefits

Foot drop is a medical term used to refer the condition in which the muscles of the foot (including ankle and toes) gets wakened. These muscles are basically responsible for lifting the foot upward and moving the ankle.

As a result, the individual suffering from the condition often find it difficult to walk and balance while standing without a needed support or assistance.

In most of these cases, patient need to drag the front of their foot while walking. The problem may occur in one or in both the feet.

According to experts in the field, foot drop condition is not a disease but a neuromuscular disorder which actually affects the muscles and nerves.

In most of the cases it may be a symptom of other underlying health condition such as problem in lower back.

An individual who seems to get affected from foot drop is advised to get in contact with a medical professional to get the best treatment and to avoid the problem getting worse.

Your doctor may recommend the best treatment plan based on the causes, which is most of the times a combination of:

Physical therapy: This is suggested in conditions where the problem is due to lower back problems like herniated disc, spinal stenosis, arthritis, etc. Gait training may also be sometimes given to the patients who suffer from problems of gait disturbances.

Foot drop brace or orthoses: Orthoses (also known orthotics) are the specially designed foot drop brace or splint which is commonly used for treating the condition of foot drop. It helps by stabilizing the ankle and by protecting from getting further damage.

What is Ankle Foot Orthosis?

Ankle foot orthosis (or AFO or foot drop brace) is a recent development in the medical field which is designed to help people having weak ankle joint problems such as paralysis, damage to the nerve or irritation in the lower leg.

These are specially designed to use as a shoe insert for people suffering from foot drop problems and is used efficiently to safeguard the ankle joint from getting further damage.

Basically the ankle foot orthosis is made up of silicon plastic which creates total contact with the ankle joint starting from the lower limb till the foot area covering the ankle joint.

In simple terms, this is basically a plastic brace which is worn on the lower leg and foot so that the ankle joint can be supported and protected. This also helps in holding the foot or ankle in the correct position and also to correct the imbalances while walking.

After proper incorporation of the silicon ankle foot orthosis the person can feel a tight grip holding down the anterior surface of the leg which passes further down to the dorsum of the foot. Thereby it helps in lifting the foot from above instead of pushing it from underneath which the traditional orthosis will do.

Ankle Foot Orthosis Types

As such there are five basic types of foot orthoses that are available for patients. These AFO types can be used differently for different patients according to their foot drop condition and requirement.

  • Short leg fixed AFOs
  • Dorsiflexion assist short leg AFOs
  • Solid ankle AFO
  • Full leg posterior leaf spring AFO
  • Energy return AFOs

For detailed description about each of these ankle foot orthosis types, you can check here.

When Is AFO Or Foot Orthoses Used?

The major objective of ankle foot orthosis is to protect the ankle joint by keeping it in proper position.

The conditions in which the ankle foot orthosis or simply orthotics is highly indicated and even recommended by most of the orthopedics are as follows:

  • Poliomyelitis,
  • Sciatic nerve compression or trauma,
  • Peroneal nerve compression or trauma,
  • Peripheral neuritis or neuropathies,
  • Spinal injuries mainly in case of incomplete spinal injuries,
  • Hemiplegia,
  • Diplegia,
  • Paraplegia,
  • Stroke,
  • Multiple sclerosis,
  • Ankle joint ligament injury,
  • Severe form of Achilles tendonitis,
  • A severe form of calcaneal spurs, etc.

AFO ankle brace can be of use to a common person who is found affected with foot drop. Also it is mush useful for people in military and sporting.

Benefits of Using Ankle Foot Orthosis for Foot Drop

After using AFO leg brace and AFO brace shoes most of the people commented that it suits best for them and it also helped a lot in reducing their foot drop and ankle problems. Basically the ankle foot orthosis helps in following ways:

  • It helps in replication and restoration of the normal and natural foot movements and action
  • It supports the ankle joint and gives good alignment
  • Along with proper assistive and resistive movements, the ankle foot orthosis helps in reducing the spasticity of the ankle joint and foot mainly in cases of paralysis conditions
  • Wearing the ankle foot orthosis for foot drop helps in reducing the pressure sores mainly in case of paraplegia and stroke patients where certain parts of the foot will be having pressure areas
  • The ankle foot orthosis fits tightly with the leg and thus you can easily use it along with your regular foot wear. For people who don’t want to use both ankle foot orthosis and footwear together can only wear the orthosis.
  • The knee ankle foot orthosis is manufactured with long lasting silicon material and thus it is very easy to maintain. It won’t create any problem like damage or tearing
  • You can wear the ankle foot orthosis even during your regular activities like showering, bathing, swimming, etc.
  • Ankle foot orthosis’s cost is very low and thus it is an easily affordable brace which anyone can easily purchase and make use of

Based on the material used and requirement of the people, there can be many ankle foot orthosis types. In case of any assistance about which one suits you best, you can get suggestion from a good orthopedician or physician.

They can help you find the best AFO for foot drop based on your condition.