In 2018 I wrote about The Glass Slipper That Fit, sharing the process and experience of Bella’s customized ankle foot orthosis (AFOs). This piece of equipment is a brace made out of plastic that is worn on the lower leg and foot to support her ankle, while holding the foot and ankle in the correct position, and correcting her foot drop. Bella continues to wear the AFOs as it helps with her foot and knee positioning during walking and improves her stability for standing. In today’s post I will be sharing our recent shoe-find that supports Bella’s new pair of AFOs.
Finding shoes that fit over AFOs is always a challenge for many children with neuromuscular disorders that affect the ability to walk. However when you find the perfect closed-toe, low-heeled shoe to fit the AFOs ya gotta stock up… this haul lasted us for 1.5 years!
As Bella continues to grow, we recently had to return back to Bloorview’s Orthotics Department to go through the fitting process for a new pair of AFOs. This process involved making new casts of Bella’s feet and ankles. A thin material was placed over her foot and ankle like a sock to protect her skin, followed by wrapping it in standard fiberglass casting material. Once the cast dried, our orthotist was ready to do her magic!
I had no complaints with these pink glass slippers that fit our Queen B mentioned above, however I did learn that the company discontinued this style, YIKES! So, I started doing some research on adaptive shoes tailored for kids with disabilities, and I was surprised that more brands are now intentionally designing and developing footwear for people with disabilities in mind. Check it out...
The company Vans makes an excellent sturdy shoe called Kids Sk8 Hi Zip. The high top adds more stability and pairs nicely with their great looks you can't deny! Make sure to try these shoes on before purchasing because I’ve also learned that this particular shoe sometimes runs a little large. The Vans Kids Sk8 Hi Zip comes in many patterns for toddler and kid sizes too.
Nike has created their FlyEase Collection which are quick and easy to get into, and more hands-free. The easy-entry designs expand access and unlock benefits for all people of all abilities. The creative innovations of this collection is all about the ‘fly ease’ entry system, designed for both kids and adults with and without disabilities. I'm a big fan of their technology which includes straps, zippers, and a movable heel to allow the foot to slide in without angling (YAS! You heard me, the heel actually moves!). I know ya’ll lazy to bend down to pull your shoe on and off, so with this new design you can easily get in and out of these fresh looking kicks! Nikes usually fit better for the narrow foot, so if you have a pair of AFOs, make sure you try them on before purchasing.
Finding a quality winter boot to withstand the Canadian winters, while providing the stability your child needs with their AFOs is definitely a challenge. Butler is a Montreal-based brand that has introduced a 3 in 1 waterproof-boot concept designed to take kids through every season. They are available in both a tall and short version, and is a snow boot insulated with a breathable liner and temperature-rated to minus 30 degrees. What's neat is when the liner is removed, the boot functions as an overshoe that is constructed with an accordion-pleated design and stretches to fit over any type of footwear. What a great concept for wet-weather days!
So here’s my Mom Behind The Label criteria for a good-looking shoe for a pair of honk’n AFOs:
- Wide and sturdy build
- High top shoe for better support
- Zipper or velcro that allows the shoe to be adjusted more
- Deep shoe to fit the orthotic
- High back enough to support the splint
- Durable sole
- Functional style for any occasion
- AND AFFORDABLE!
So low and behold, we went with Billy!
I loved their slogan, Fashion meets function, inclusion for all.
“Our focus is on shoes that embody universal design, meaning they both appeal to and work for everyone. The term, "universal design" is used all the time in the construction of homes and city buildings, referring to environments that accommodate all parties. Universal design has even appeared right under our noses with the advancements and popularity of smart phones, which incorporate features that are not only convenient for the masses, but also allow individuals with vision, hearing, and mobility impairments to access all the same information. The designs of these structures and gadgets are universal, so why not apply the same term to fashion?”
The incorporation of the zippers that go along the side of the shoes and around the toe, allowing the upper of each shoe to open and fold over completely is pure brilliance! Putting on shoes over braces is quite difficult, and as new Billy owners it has literally cut down 3 minutes of my leaving-the-house-in-a-mad-rush routine each morning! I also liked how Billy Footwear has several styles including tennis shoes, low tops, boots and casual dress wear for toddlers, children and adults. Our orthotist recommended us to check out Billy Footwear at a unique online retailer called Zulily. This store functions differently, instead of having a set range of products that are always available, they constantly offer new merchandise in daily sales! Get this, we ended up purchasing 3 pairs of different styles for Queen B at a great price!
It’s exciting to see that more companies are creating an inclusive collection for shoes. From zippers and fasteners, toggle-adjusted stretchy laces, and tabs that make it easier for the consumer to slip their feet in at ease, anyone with or without disabilities can benefit from a product that addresses the variety of needs out there! I look forward to learning more about the commitment of inclusivity from the different brands out there. If you have any recommendations to share, please drop me a line!
Thank you to Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital's Family Support Fund, as they continue to offer financial support to Holland Bloorview clients and families during times of transition or stress. With this funding we were able to purchase Queen B's AFOs to support her strut in her new kicks!