Improving Swing Phase Toe Clearance Difficulties Caused by Heavy Orthotics

Ask the Expert

Question: Some orthoses, such as the KAFO, make it difficult for a patient to lift and clear the toe due to the added weight. What do you recommend to counteract this issue?

Jill Seale, PT, PhD, NCS responds:

A KAFO is definitely going to be heavier because of the thigh component; however, the types of metal uprights that are available in today’s market are very lightweight. They are likely to be made of titanium or a similar metal. The cost of the materials varies by content with the lightest material being the most expensive.

You will also want to think about lifting the client up on the opposite side if they are using a KAFO with a locked knee. Picture a person walking with their right leg in a KAFO that is locked at the knee. This positioning makes their right leg functionally longer than their left. You really need to pay attention and raise them up on their left side by adding a lift to the left shoe. How much? I would start out with a few millimeters of Pe-Lite and use trial and error to add more height until they can swing smoothly. It is not going to be perfect.

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For more information on this topic, view the recorded live webinar Utilization of Ankle Foot Orthoses (AFOs) in Patients with Neurological Dysfunction.