One of the most frustrating things about having a child who wears AFOs is how hard it is to find shoes to fit. My daughter started wearing AFOs at 3 months old. For the first year, she simply did not wear shoes. However, when she started pulling to stand I knew I needed to tackle the scary beast of shopping for shoes.
Shoe shopping is FRUSTRATING when your child has AFOs
My first shoe shopping adventure lasted well over a week, full of stress and yes, I will admit, tears. I kept thinking, it should not be this difficult to find shoes! Eventually, I found a single pair of (expensive) shoes that fit over her AFOs at Stride Rite. That was it – she got one pair. I didn’t have the energy to keep shopping for variety.
The next time she got new braces I went directly to Stride Rite, but they had nothing. Nothing! After trying on shoe after shoe at store after store, I ordered 12 pairs of extra wide toddler shoes off Zappos. Two pairs kind of worked, so we kept them. Luckily, Zappos makes it easy to return shoes that don’t fit.
I could go on and on. Eventually a friend found that a particular pair of New Balance sneakers with laces worked really well on her daughter, so they became my shoe of choice for Lily. The only problem … they are not cute. They are gray. And they are fine. But they are boring. Sigh.
A snip here and a pulled out insole there and … voila! Cute shoes over AFOs.
This week my daughter is on spring break, and we have been having a fun time together – going to the park, shopping, running errands, etc. On a shopping trip to Target, one of our tasks was to find shoes for my son. While we were in the aisle, Lily saw shoes with all her favorite characters – Hello Kitty, Minnie Mouse, Doc McStuffins! She REALLY wanted a pair of special shoes.
We tried on a bunch, and most were a definite no. However, a particular pair of Doc McStuffins sneakers had a lot of promise. The only problem was that the top piece of velcro barely closed over the AFO. To me, it looked like the problem was the big thick tongue. While a nice squishy tongue makes shoes comfortable for people who only need to fit feet in their shoes, people with AFOs get no benefit. So… I took it out… and it worked!
Step by Step Guide to Removing Tongue from Shoe
Because the AFO provides all the support the foot needs, the insole is not necessary. Removing it gives needed room to the AFO.
Here are the shoes before I removed the tongue. See how the top velcro strap doesn’t even make it mid-way across the shoe?
Undo the velcro straps and pull them out of the loops.
Find the threads holding the tongue to the shoe, and cut them to remove the tongue. You can use a seam ripper or scissors (open the scissors wide and use one of the blades like a knife sawing the threads until they break free).
Make sure you remove the entire tongue along with all threads. You do NOT want to leave a rough area inside the shoe that could rub on your child’s foot.
See how the inside of the shoe is very smooth? This is what you want to see.
Here they are all finished! The velcro now comes all the way across and the shoes fit as designed.
What other hacks have you used to fit shoes over AFOs?
Stay tuned for another shoe “hack” coming soon!