How to Make an AFO Brace

Written by rob holzman
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AFO stands for ankle foot orthoses. An ankle foot orthoses is a leg brace used by people who have a weakness in the flexor muscles in the lower leg, ankle weakness or neurological problems that cause them to have walking and balance problems. AFOs are made by health care professionals called orthotists, or orthotic technicians who fabricate AFOs in a custom fabrication lab. The process of making an AFO is quite simple but requires knowledge of anatomy, good hand skills and lab equipment.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Plaster
  • Polypropylene
  • An AFO oven
  • AFO vacuum press

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  1. 1

    Make a cast from plaster or fibreglass with the lower leg in a neutral position. A neutral position is a position where the subtalar joint is neutral and the ankle is near 90 degrees of flexion. The cast is a negative of the leg. The negative cast should look as much like the actual leg as possible.

  2. 2

    The cast must be removed with a cast saw or a cutting knife. The cast should be removed when it is hard but still pliable enough to manipulate if it is warped. The cast should be taped or stapled shut to prepare the negative cast for the next step.

  3. 3

    Pour plaster into the negative mould to make a replica of the leg for forming the AFO over. The plaster should be smooth and void of air bubbles or imperfections. Pour the plaster into the mould slowly to create a good, consistent plaster that will set well in the negative mould.

  4. 4

    After the plaster hardens, remove the outer shell with a cutting knife. A solid plaster replica of the human leg is now formed. Modify this mould by rasping off any imperfections with a metal rasp and smoothing the plaster so it is clean and void of any imperfections.

  5. 5

    Add plaster to any bony prominences that are present on the mould. This will allow for adequate room when the AFO is formed over the mould. Smooth the mould again to prepare it to have the plastic AFO moulded over it.

  6. 6

    Heat the plastic in an AFO heating oven and vacuum form the material over the mould. After the plastic has cooled, the AFO can be removed and inspected for any winkles or forming problems. If the brace resembles the leg and has no wrinkles, it is ready to be ground to proper size.

  7. 7

    Using a grinder, grind the AFO so that it is the proper shoe size for the individual it was moulded to and polish the edges that were ground so they are clean and smooth. Add Velcro straps to the brace so it can be secured to the leg.

Tips and warnings

  • AFO fabrication and casting should only be preformed by qualified health care professionals or technicians.

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