AFO Or No?

I don’t remember getting my first AFOs. That’s how long I’ve worn at least one AFO. I’ve had periods where I’ve been completely AFO-free (high school & college mostly) but I’ve had some kind of bracing more than I’ve not had it.

Growing up coordinating my wardrobe with my AFOs was a no-brainer. I went to a Catholic school. There were no wardrobe options, unless you wanted a uniform violation. If there was one positive to wearing a uniform this is it, although I’ve never looked at gray knee socks the same way since.

Once I was freed from my uniform I stuck to pants, jeans really, even though I was out of AFOs by then. None of my campuses were ideal for shorts, for one reason or another, and I really didn’t want to deal with another “length debate,” even if public schools are more liberal with dress codes than private schools. I felt “liberated” enough in jeans and a tank top.

I owned shorts. I just never wore them. I always had at least one pair, just in case. In case of what? I’m not exactly sure, but they were there.

A few years ago I started wearing shorts again. Again I’m not exactly sure why once I was able to safely dress myself again after having surgery. I got tired of the heat. I was past being tired of people asking why I always wore pants. I thought I looked really weird with a nicely tanned upper body and a whiter-than-snow lower body. It was all very un-swimmer of me too.

Here’s the kicker, I started wearing shorts again while I wore an AFO. All the years of being pants only were during my AFO-free years.   (I’m sure it’s not unheard of, but unusual.)

Summer is the time of year when wearing any type of footwear is difficult. Throw in needing to wear an AFO (or two) and everything that that entails, and you can probably guess why “I don’t feel like wearing shoes today” is a legitimate reason to not leave the house (or is that just me).

Those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to safely ambulate with and without an AFO, even though we do (or at least should) wear one are presented with something of a unique challenge.

“To AFO or not to AFO?”

I tend to wear my AFO in unfamiliar situations or situations where it may get lost. I also wear it when I know I’ll get tired or need the extra stability. I don’t usually wear it all day long, unless I have to for some reason, because I tend to “flex/tone” out of it. I usually end up with a pretty obvious strap mark across my foot after a day of heavy wear (another reason why a wheelchair is often a smarter option).

Being that I wear a to-the-knee (or is it a below the knee) AFO on one side and an orthotic (like a shoe insert) I struggled on how to handle the socks issue. Call me vain if you wish.

I decided against wearing short socks under my AFO early on. It’s also been drilled into my head that it’s a big “no-no” in regards to skin health. Sweaty skin covered in plastic isn’t good, not to mention gross. Plus I tend to sweat a lot (in my opinion) so subjecting myself to conditions that could produce more sweat, no thanks.

I thought I’d end up wearing knee socks with shorts. I mean, I wear them almost every day anyway so it made the most sense, for 5 minutes. Have you ever seen adult knee socks? They’re either really lame or really cool, but neither case is ideal for summer wear. Also many of them are fairly thick and that brings us back to the sweat issue. I can’t afford those fancy pants socks that reduce moisture, or whatever, and even if I could afford them, they’re socks, not something I want to spend a lot of money on. Some people can afford it and want to, whatever works for you.

Also are knee socks fashionable these days? I want to say no, since you don’t see an explosion of knee sock fashion.

As funny as I thought it looked (and still do, to be honest), I settled on a short/knee sock combo. It’s not for everyone, but it’s what works best for me. Plus I can usually get two pairs (or two uses) out of one pair of ankle length socks (so I didn’t need to do more shopping!).

If you were AFOs (or one) how do you handle AFO related issues, like socks or “to wear or not to wear”, or anything else? Do you have any AFO related questions? Don’t be shy.

*A similar version of this post was written on July 15, 2014

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2 thoughts on “AFO Or No?

  1. I am a wheelchair user and I wear AFOs on both my feet. If I take them off my heels get sore because of the pressure, so I wear them all the time. I wear trousers every day, usually when it’s really hot as well. However I did resort to taking the AFOs off recently because it was so hot and I couldn’t take the heat any longer. I would only probably wear shorts at home because of the AFOs so nobody could see. I don’t think they look very trendy!

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    • You can make them pretty trendy, or as trendy as possible, if you ask! People usually assume if you’re not a little kid you just want the “standard issue deal” but people can surprise you.

      Like

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