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The Challenge of Shoe Shopping for My Daughter With Cerebral Palsy Who Wears AFOs

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Shoe shopping. For some this is an enjoyable and exciting activity. One may be delighted to find the perfect pair of shoes for a special occasion or finding a new pair of fashion boots. Discovering the best pair of runners for your favorite sport may excite you! Purchasing the cutest pair of shoes for a little one can melt your heart. Shoe shopping can be fun, for some.

As a parent of a child with cerebral palsy (CP) who wears AFOs (ankle foot orthotics) on both legs, I can confidently say that shoe shopping is not fun. In fact, I find it extremely stressful and dread it every time a new pair of AFOs come home or the seasons change. As my daughter has gotten older, her AFOs have gotten bigger. Finding running shoes and winter boots has become such a daunting task, and let’s not even talk about rubber boots! That has been a tricky one for us.

It is difficult to find a shoe that is deep and wide enough for her AFOs. Often you need to buy a size or two up from her regular foot size for it to have a chance at working. Some pairs have to be so much bigger just to have her AFOs fit inside that she looks like she is wearing comedic clown shoes. Now that she is in kid sizes, I find it more difficult to find the right pair compared to when she was younger. We have purchased so many different brands and sized shoes this last round of shoe shopping that at one point our closet looked like a mini shoe store. There were so many boxes!

For those who do this type of shoe shopping, you know one of the first steps is to remove the insole, if the shoe allows it. Sometimes modifications need to be made like cutting the tongue of the shoe or boot so it has more flexibility when we jam her AFO into it. We have had to extend Velcro straps. In the past we have found great shoes that fit but unfortunately after a short time wearing them, they were almost more shoe glue than shoe. When we do find the perfect brand that fits one year it often doesn’t work for the next year. And if you are someone who only wears a brace on one leg, that must be super challenging too! There is a lot of trial and error.

As frustrating as this has been for us over the last five years, there are bigger problems to have. I’m thankful my daughter can be independent and enjoy many activities while rocking her AFOs. I am also happy to see different brands who have included wider widths or now offer orthotic friendly style shoes. There are more adaptive lines coming out for clothing and shoes too, which is amazing. We need more of this to continue so as my daughter grows up, she has not only more options, but hopefully, shoe shopping will be more fun!

Originally published: September 26, 2020
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