“Foot drop” is the inability of the foot to lift up. It is a main reason for the foot to drag along while walking. It is commonly associated with neurological events such as stroke, spinal cord damange, nerve damage in the lower leg, etc. An ankle Foot Orthosis – AFO is often used for the management of a foot drop. The large number of designs available can make the choice a difficult one. Therefore, when choosing a suitable AFO or ankle splint, there are a few relevant questions to ask:
1. Is your foot drop caused by muscle weakness predominantly? An AFO has little to no effect on foot drop that is caused by severe stiffness.
2. Does your ankle and foot move? Some AFO are designed to allow ankle movement. E.g. A hinged AFO
3. Do you want the AFO to assist your foot/ankle to lift up? Certain materials and some designs can passively assist the foot/ankle to lift. E.g. Ossur AFO light, Richie dynamic ankle brace.
4. Does your ankle give way? If yes, be careful to choose something that provides more support laterally (along the side of your foot). E.g. Air-lite stirrup, or ankle brace with a figure of 8 design.
5. Do you want to wear it inside your shoe? Some AFO are designed to be worn inside, E.g. Supralite AFO, or outside your shoes, E.g. Foot up.
6. How much do you want to spend? The price of ankle splints can range from A$70 to $1000 each. An expensive AFO may not be one that is good for you.
7. How durable is an AFO? Depending on the material, most AFOs can last up to 2 years before they become worn and ineffective.
8. How should you go about choosing the right one? Getting an AFO is like buying a pair of shoes. It is hard to get the right ones without trying. A physiotherapist or podiatrist with knowledge on a range of products can give you helpful advice based on an individualised assessment! If you need something custom made, they can refer you to an orthotist.
9. Apart from ankle splints, what are the other options? Modifying your shoes by a podiatrist; functional electrical stimulation and/or rehabilitation through exercises and stretches with a physiotherapist are other conservative options which may work for you. In terms of medical and surgical options, your neurologist can provide you further advice regarding botulinum toxin, oral medications, and surgical procedures.
For more information, please feel free to contact My Rehab Team, a rehabilitation service which is mobile around Brisbane. Rebates are available for members of Medibank Private, HCF and all other private health funds.
Image courtesy of Simon Howden, at Free Digital Photo. [Online] Available at: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/Vacations_g208-Footprints_p23389.html (Accessed on 15th December, 2014)