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Shoe shopping for orthotics: A Loving Journey

Shopping for children’s shoes is never easy. When your child wears lower-leg and foot orthotics, such as DAFOs, AFOs or Sure Steps, shoe shopping brings a whole new definition of “exhaustion.”  How do you find the best shoe for the perfect fit? How do you find the best price? And how to know where to begin?

As you know, there are many shoe companies out there, some that specially make shoes for DAFOs and AFOs. But these shoes can come at a pretty steep cost; I would suggest finding coupons or online deals when you can. Even with a coupon, some of those specially made shoes can cost upwards of $70.00 or more a pair. Ouch!

Over the last seven years, finding the right pair of shoes for my son’s current DAFO situation has become trial and error. I have learned a lot – and even learned a little more on savings along the way.

First things first: Check with your child’s medical professionals before your shopping trip. They may have some specific guidelines for shoes that will work best – or not as well – for your child and his or her needs.

Now, how do you know where to start to find a shoe with the right fit? I suggest bringing your child along, or even bringing your child’s orthotic along to the shoe store. That way you will know before you buy whether a shoe fits or not.

I try to look for a wide-fit shoe; it leaves more room for my child’s foot brace. I buy shoes a bit bigger so my child has lots of toe room and room to grow. The slightly larger shoe also allows additional room for foot swelling. It does happen from time to time, especially with new foot braces. (Again, check with your child’s doctors to see just how much larger you can buy.)

Between Velcro and laces, there isn’t a big difference for us. Buy a shoe that’s easy for you or your child to put on and take off.

High-top shoes can be great for ankle stability and also for keeping your child’s brace in the shoe. Still don’t have enough room in your child’s shoe for the brace to sit flat on the bottom of the shoe? Try removing the insert inside the shoe (that is sometimes glued in); doing this can add additional space for a nice fit. Of course, only remove the insert after you buy the shoe or after asking the store for the OK.  Still don’t have enough room in those shoes to fit around the ankle area? Some parents cut out the tongue of the shoe. Your child’s DAFOs or AFOs or Sure Steps will come included with a “chip” or tongue of its own for the brace. No need for a second one if you don’t need it.

Want to save some money? Try shopping at a discount shoe stores, using coupons, or even shopping at thrift stores or consignment stores, or heck…even yard sales. I’ve found my son a pair of shoes at many different locations, and I spend less than $20 or even sometimes less than $10. When you do find your child’s perfect shoe and it’s a perfect deal, buy several pairs in different sizes for when they grow.

For an even bigger savings, shop off season. Buy sandals in the winter and boots in the summer. I’ve saved 70 percent off or more by shopping off season. Just like that, you’ve saved some cash to grab a Starbucks coffee on the way out of the mall. Win-win for everyone!

Trish Schaeffer is a mom of three boys—two with special needs—and a blogger for Central Penn Parent. Follow her at You can follow Trish on Twitter @Alovingjourney and on her Facebook group A Loving Journey-Parents of special needs kids.

This blog pro­vides gen­eral infor­ma­tion and dis­cus­sion about med­i­cine, health and related sub­jects. The text and other con­tent pro­vided in this blog, and in any linked mate­ri­als, are not intended and should not be con­strued as professional med­ical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The medical and health information provided in this blog are provided without any express or implied warranties. If the reader or any other per­son has a med­ical con­cern, he or she should always con­sult with an appropriately licensed physi­cian or other qualified health care provider. Never dis­re­gard pro­fes­sional med­ical advice or delay in seek­ing it because of some­thing you have read on this blog or in any linked materials. If you think you may have a med­ical emer­gency, call your doc­tor immediately. Central Penn Parent does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions or other information that may be mentioned on this blog.

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