A New Motion

New AFO designs New AFO designs

AFOs (Ankle Foot Orthosis) do an admirable job in supporting and correcting unwanted motion of the foot and ankle. Sometimes they do too well of a job by limiting or completely restricting desirable motion. This can lead to muscle atrophy, weakness, unnatural walking pattern, and patient intolerance of the brace. To solve this issue, orthotists are now using a combination of different plastics, carbon fiber, and components to allow normal motion of the foot and ankle while blocking out what is not desirable. For example, the trimlines of an AFO can be designed to allow flexibility and the ankle. Carbon fiber can also be used to make the brace lightweight, easy to put in a shoe, and flexible.  Here are examples of a brace made by Allard called the Toe-off AFO.

AFO with joints AFO with joints
Another component that can be incorporated is ankle joints that will allow the orthosis to flex with the ankle. They can either assist weak muscles to move the ankle (dorsi- and plantar-flexion assist joints), have free motion, or limit motion in one or more planes. They are made of plastic or lightweight metal and are cosmetically appealing.

Different types of plastics and inserts can be incorporated into the AFO to provide stiffness in one area, say for example at the ankle while having flexibility at the foot and toes. Lightweight thin, flexible plastics can be used to allow natural movement of the foot and ankle while still providing proper alignment. Traditional hard plastic orthotics limits all motion in the foot, even desirable motion. One example of an orthosis that allows natural movement is the SureStep, designed by Bernie Veldman. These pediatric orthoses are designed to control ankle and foot pronation while allowing the natural motion of the foot and ankle. These orthotics were designed to be used by children with low muscle tone (hypotonicity).  Coastal Limb and Brace now provides this custom orthosis.

Even with long leg knee braces (KAFOs) that are used for patients with weak quadriceps combined with foot drop the trend is to design knee joints that provide stability of the knee and foot when standing but allow the knee to unlock for the swing phase of walking. When the client can walk as nature intended she can save on energy expenditure, her entire body will feel more relaxed, and she can feel more “enabled”, not less so. Please see your orthotist for any further questions.

Picture is by ottobockus.com

<<< back