I have spastic Cerebral Palsy and I wear an Ankle Foot Orthotic leg brace, or AFO. When I was young, it was difficult to find a pair of shoes to accommodate the bulky, plastic braces around my feet and legs. Once the right shoes were found, my mobility increased. As my mobility increased, so did my injuries. Many days would end in tears from falling and a blister from the hard, unforgiving plastic against the soft tissues of my feet and ankles. After years of wearing AFOs, my activities changed and my needs got a food pair of shoes and supportive AFO have gotten considerably more important.
True to design, the AFO has always been next to my foot and between my foot and the cushion of a shoe. But having the plastic support inside of the shoe, the AFO negates all the comforts of a shoe; all of the fancy foams and the soft leather or fabric that makes up the upper part of the shoe and all the air cushioned soles are all counteracted by the brace. What’s left is an 1/8 of an inch of foam to bare all on my weight while walking each and everyday.
I have a lot of walking ahead of me, and walking everyday on a thin piece of foam is not enough. For my final semester of graduate work, I finally did something about my problem. I modified an existing pair of shoes to more comfortably fit my feet and also integrated the supportive AFO brace on the outside of the shoe. In this way, I can have the best of both worlds: the comfort of a shoe and the support of a brace.
My practicum is called a SAFOS, which stands for a Supportive Ankle Foot Orthotic Shoe. This system I made and customized to my set of needs, both the brace and the show are working together in a final, singular unit. Finally, I have a comfortable brace and a supportive shoe. Now I can walk better and keep walking.