Ankle Foot Orthosis For Foot Drop: Types and Benefits

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Foot drop is a medical term used to refer to the condition in which the muscles of the foot (including ankle and toes) get 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 finds it difficult to walk and balance while standing without needed support or assistance.

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

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

In most cases, it may be a symptom of other underlying health conditions such as problems in the lower back.

An individual who seems to get affected by a 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 time, 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 patients who suffer from problems with gait disturbances.

Foot drop brace or orthoses:

Orthoses (also known as orthotics) are 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 it from getting further damage.

What is Ankle Foot Orthosis?

Ankle Foot Orthosis For Foot Drop

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 are 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 to the foot area covering the ankle joint.

In simple terms, this is a plastic brace 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 lift 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 requirements.

  • Short leg fixed AFOs
  • Dorsiflexion assists short leg AFOs
  • Solid Ankle AFO
  • Full leg posterior leaf spring AFO
  • Energy return AFOs

For a detailed description of 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 the proper position.

The conditions in which ankle-foot orthosis or simply orthotics is highly indicated and even recommended by most 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,
  • A 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 by foot drops.

Also, it is much useful for people in the military and sports.

Benefits of Using Ankle Foot Orthosis for Foot Drop

After using the AFO leg brace and AFO brace shoes, most of the people commented that it suits them, and it also helped a lot in reducing their foot drop and ankle problems.

Basically, ankle-foot orthosis helps in the following ways:

1- It helps in the replication and restoration of the normal and natural foot movements and action

2- It supports the ankle joint and gives good alignment

3- 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

4- Wearing the ankle-foot orthosis for foot drop helps in reducing the pressure sores, mainly in the case of paraplegia and stroke patients where certain parts of the foot will have pressure areas

5- The ankle-foot orthosis fits tightly with the leg, and thus you can easily use it along with your regular footwear.

People who don’t want to use both ankle-foot orthosis and footwear together can only wear the orthosis.

6- The knee ankle foot orthosis is manufactured with a long-lasting silicon material, and thus it is very easy to maintain.

It won’t create any problems like damage or tearing

7- You can wear ankle-foot orthosis even during your regular activities like showering, bathing, swimming, etc.

8- Ankle foot orthosis’s cost is very low, and thus it is an easily affordable brace that anyone can easily purchase and make use of

Based on the material used and the requirements 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 suggestions from a good orthopedician or physician.

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

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