My Doctor has prescribed an ankle foot orthosis for drop foot.  Will I still be able to wear my regular shoes? M.C.

Matt Zydron, CPO
Matt Zydron

Ankle Foot Orthosis, also called AFO’s, have been around for decades. These braces work to restore function to the lower extremity. This helps patients with drop foot ambulate more closely to normal gait, and reduces the chances of tripping.

In the past, AFO’s have primarily been fabricated from polypropylene-based plastic and other thermoplastics. While these materials are durable and lightweight, the profiles may be thick, uncomfortable, and can limit a patient’s footwear choices.

A new process of pre-impregnating a carbon composite with a thermosetting resin is bringing improved applications for orthotic devices. Pre-preg AFO’s have several advantages over traditional, thermoplastic orthoses including:

  • They are stronger than traditional, thermoplastic braces, and lighter weight
  • They have a thin, light profile which is more comfortable than traditional materials and does not require accommodative shoes
  • Pre-preg AFO’s provide a dynamic response, leading to a more natural walking pattern
  • Customization to the exact specifications needed by the patient


The process of fabricating the carbon AFO’s can be done relatively quickly, getting patients up and walking safer in a short amount of time. Best of all, you should be able to wear “off the shelf” low heel, supportive shoes.