Life with Foot Drop, Answered by TeamUP Captain Beth Deloria

The following answers are from the members of TeamUP, which reflect their personal opinions and experiences. Everyone’s needs are different, and we encourage you to contact a certified orthotist to find the modifications, customizations and recommendations that will work best for you.

What is Foot Drop?

About Get Back Up and TeamUP

About the Allard AFO Braces

The Allard family of AFO braces is utilized by members of TeamUP and tens of thousands of others across the globe who live with foot drop. There are three braces within the family: Ypsilon®, ToeOFF® and BlueROCKER®. The ToeOFF® and BlueROCKER® products are also available in pediatric sizes, called KiddieGAIT® and KiddieROCKER®. Each brace is a technologically advanced, carbon composite orthosis that deflects in reaction to your weight and then reflects that energy to propel the leg forward. With varying supports, sizes, stability strengths and the ability to be highly customized, this dynamic ankle foot orthosis helps wearers walk with a more natural gait pattern.


Life with Foot Drop, Answered by TeamUP Captain Beth Deloria

What caused your foot drop?

You can read the stories of TeamUP here.

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What brace do you use? Do you think it will work for me?

Beth: The brace I wear for running is the Allard ToeOFF® brace, but I wear their Ypsilon® version for everyday activities that aren’t as involved as running. I now know of many very active individuals in Allard braces and every single one is different. Plus, I am not a certified orthotist (the kind of specialist who can order and fit the brace) so I wouldn’t be able to say (1) whether you would have the same results or (2) whether the ToeOFF®, Ypsilon®, or BlueROCKER® Allard brace would be the best option for you to try. If you need help finding a skilled orthotist with experience in Allard products in your area, you can contact their friendly customer service specialists at (888) 678-6548 or info@allardusa.com.

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What did you do to get back to running?

Beth: I did a lot of strength and stabilizing rehab for two years post-surgery before I found the Allard ToeOFF®. The main exercise I did from the very start was what they call “water running”, which simulates all the actions of running without the impact. Here’s a link to the DVD I’ve used now for more than eight years.

If you have access to a pool with a deep end (you never touch the bottom during these workouts) this would be a fantastic place to start. Although the program is for “serious athletes” she makes suggestions for beginners to help make the workouts progressive as you get stronger. The program puts you through all the motions of running; strengthening every muscle in the process and increasing your balance within the safety of the water. If this doesn’t sound like an option for you, I would suggest the other exercises I did:

First, I started with stair stepping. Simply going up one stair one leg at a time, then down one stair one leg at a time (doing many repetitions with each leg leading). This not only strengthens your calves and quad muscles, but it helps to improve your balance and ensures that you’re utilizing both sides of your body equally. As you get stronger, you can increase the “stair height” by stepping up on a crate, a bench or any other STABLE household object. Again, you step up with one leg and using that leg only to power yourself up, then step down with the same leg focusing on smooth and fluid motions.

Second, I added leg lunges. I would try to do these without an AFO (on or near a wall if you need something to help your balance). Advance this exercise by doing “walking lunges” as you get stronger.

Third, I added two-legged stair hops. Basically, I stand in front of a stair and hop up with both legs then step down one leg at a time. I actually bought the aerobic step platforms to control the height and add stability that a stair doesn’t offer, here’s a link to this type of product.

After all of that I began to run in place with very short strides and eventually I was able to run for short periods at a time. It wasn’t until I was out of my plastic AFO and into the ToeOFF® that I was able to run for long distances. Now (if I train properly!!) I can run the same pace and with the same comfort as before my foot drop.

With all of that being said, every person is different and I don’t know all the details of your situation so I can’t promise that what worked for me will work for you. However, if you start with this type of physio you will soon be more aware of what strengths and weaknesses you have to work with/work on.

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How do I Get Back Up and running in my brace?

Beth: I’d first like to stress that any running program takes patience and persistence, especially if you are new to the sport. Though I was a runner before I developed foot drop, I have had to modify my technique and form somewhat. I now concentrate on landing more on my midfoot as opposed to the heel in order to keep as much stress off the brace as possible. My orthotist made a few modifications to my brace to customize it to my particular needs, and I also do regular strengthening exercises to help keep my foot and ankle neutral and my gait (or walking pattern) consistent. Here’s a video showing how my physician helped to customize my ToeOFF®.

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In some of the pictures you are wearing a band around your calf instead of a sock or a strap above your knee. What are these for?

Beth: I wear a compression sleeve (available at any running store these days) to help prevent my brace from rubbing my shin and sometimes a strap above my knee to keep ITBand pain away. ITBand is short for IlioTibial Band. It’s a tendon that runs down the leg and when it doesn’t track properly you get ITB Syndrome which causes major knee pain.

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My brace rubs the front of my shin and will irritate my skin worse if I run. Do you have recommendations for this?

Beth: The solution to my issue with this was proper trimming of the brace’s footplate so that it could move up/back in my shoe with maximum performance/comfort. The other solution was using the ComfortKIT padding Allard also offers, which is made with memory foam instead of the standard padding that comes with the brace. This, along with a compression sock, worked great for me.

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What modifications do you suggest for cycling?

Beth: I do not ride a bike often with my ToeOFF® but have some experience watching/talking to people who do a lot of cycling in BlueROCKERs®. I know they’ve said they have to use perfect cycling form, which means keeping even stress on the pedals throughout the rotation. I wouldn’t think this would put nearly as much strain on a brace as running would, simply because with proper form your feet should stay at a 90-degree angle to your shin (pulling up and pushing down with equal force)…. But then again, cycling is not something I’m an expert at.

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Can you wear boots with the brace?

Beth: I recently bought a pair of North Face® snow boots and my brace fits wonderfully in them. The important thing is that the sole is removable and either the boot has a zipper or, in my case, full lace-up so you can open the boot wide enough to fit the brace in. Also, the boot should have at least a 1/4″ heel lift versus a completely flat sole, like in a ballet flat. In the case of many ToeOFF® wearers, your orthotist may be able to trim your foot plate somewhat to make it slightly shorter and narrower at the front to fit better into shoes without compromising function. Your orthotist will always be the final opinion on any modifications though, as they are professionally trained and know your particular needs better than anyone.

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How do you take your brace out of your shoe?

Beth: I am VERY careful taking the ToeOFF® in and out of my shoes. I’ve seen so many people pull on the strut and rock it back and forth to wrestle the brace out of a tight fitting shoe, which in my opinion puts a lot of undue stress on the entire brace perhaps weakening it for regular use. I’ve gotten into the habit of putting a little piece of duct tape on the back of the footplate so that I can pull it to easily lift the brace out of the shoe.

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How do you keep the brace from wearing out your shoelaces?

Beth: Sometimes the brace can have a shearing effect on shoelaces. To help prolong their life, my teammates and I have been known to wrap a small piece of duct tape around the part of the lace that wears. You can also put duct tape on the underside of the shoe where the brace rubs it AND to the portion of the strut itself that comes in contact with shoes/laces.

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What kind of insert do you use? How was it customized?

Beth: I have a custom insert for my ToeOFF® that I use for running (I use the Ypsilon for all other activities). This insole is posted higher at the heel and tapers down toward the toe, plus it is a bit higher on the outside edge than on the inside to help keep my foot in a neutral position. Both of these attributes helps control the motion of my foot while I run, which has been instrumental in taking stress off the strut to prevent damage to the brace. Your orthotist should be able to help modify your brace to your particular needs.

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What is Foot Drop?

What is foot drop?

Foot drop, sometimes referred to as drop foot is NOT a disease; it is a symptom of an underlying neurological, muscular or anatomical condition marked by the inability to lift the front part of the foot. Typically, foot drop affects only one foot but can affect both feet. Depending on the cause, foot drop may be temporary or permanent.

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How do I know if I have foot drop?

Signs and symptoms of foot drop may include:

  • Frequent or increased incidence of falling or stumbling
  • Difficulty lifting one’s toes or the front part of the foot
  • Dragging the front of the foot when walking
  • A “slapping” of the foot on the floor with each step
  • Higher than normal bending of the knees and lifting of the thigh, as though one is climbing stairs
  • Inability to voluntarily point the toes upward and/or move the ankle from side to side
  • Pain, weakness or numbness in the foot or toes
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What are the best exercises for foot drop?

We have collected a whole range of great exercises and activities to help those living with foot drop over on our Pinterest account. Check it out here!

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About Get Back Up and TeamUP

What is Get Back UP?

In 2004, marathoner, Beth Deloria, was diagnosed with foot drop after a spinal injury resulted in the paralysis of the muscles of her left foot and ankle. She had lost the ability to flex her foot upward, as is necessary for a natural walking or running gait. As a runner unwilling to give up an integral part of her life she’d lost due to foot drop, Beth spent countless hours trying to find a solution that would make running possible again.

The Get Back Up campaign formed in 2012 when Beth found the answer she’d been looking for: An advanced orthotic brace that allowed her run again. Her goal became helping other foot drop sufferers realize they are not alone in their search for ways to regain mobility. Beth’s dedication to helping others Get Back Up has spawned a national grassroots movement of people determined to overcome the challenges they face. She is now one of 13
co-captains of TeamUP, the first ever national foot drop team which travels the nation spreading the Get Back Up message.

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About the Allard AFO Braces

Who is TeamUP?

TeamUP is the first national team composed of 13 co-captains who all live with foot drop. From a triathlete, to a marathoner, and a teacher to a wounded veteran, each member has a unique story and different cause of foot drop, including Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, Multiple Sclerosis, FSHD Muscular Dystrophy and spinal injury. Learn more about all our co-captains here.

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How do I get the ToeOFF®, BlueROCKER®, or Ypsilon® brace?

The Allard AFO family of products are all prescription braces that can only be ordered and fit by a certified orthotist. All you need to do is get a prescription from your general practitioner or Physical Therapist requesting an Allard ToeOFF® brace (MAKE SURE THEY INCLUDE THE PHRASE “NO SUBSTITUTIONS” TO ENSURE YOU RECEIVE THE HIGHEST QUALITY PRODUCT).

If you are not currently seeing an orthotist, please call our main office, where our friendly Customer Service Specialists will be more than happy to help you find one in your area. You can also learn more at AllardAFO.com.

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How much is the brace?

Bracing cost depends on several variables such as your insurance provider and how much customization has to be done to the brace. Your orthotist should be able to help answer any questions you have about general cost/billing.

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Will my insurance cover the brace?

Allard USA is the manufacturer and distributor of the Allard family of products, and as such, do not deal directly with insurance companies or insurance billing. The facility where you are being fit for the brace should be able to help you with any insurance/billing/payment questions you have.

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Can I buy the brace directly from Allard USA?

Allard USA does not sell directly to patients as the braces need to be customized and fit by a certified orthotist. Fitting by a trained and certified orthotist with the proper equipment will ensure that you will receive optimal performance, comfort, and longevity from your brace.

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How do I find an orthotist in my area that can fit me with a brace?

Our Customer Service Specialists are available Mon. – Fri. 8:30AM-6PM Eastern via phone at (888) 678-6548 or email at info@allardusa.com.

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I need a new SoftKIT/Strap/Velcro tab. Can I order it directly from Allard USA?

Please contact your orthotist to order any replacement parts. If for any reason your orthotist cannot provide you with replacements or you don’t recall where you were fit for your brace, please call Allard USA’s friendly Customer Service Specialists to help you find a nearby facility that can help.

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What kinds of shoes are best to wear with my Allard AFO brace?

The best shoes to wear with the Allard family of AFO braces are “rocker sole” (also called rocker bottom) athletic shoes. There are two types of rocker sole shoes. 1. Stable, with a mostly flat sole that curves up near the toe to facilitate forward motion. 2. Unstable, with a curved sole from the heel to the toe. Be sure to go with a stable rocker sole shoe so as not to put undue stress on the brace. If possible, it is recommended that you avoid wearing boots, high-heels, or slippers with your brace. Your orthotist should be able to help you pick out the optimal shoe for your brace, but some recommended brands are Aetrex, Dr. Comfort, and Orthofeet.

SHOEs

It is important to choose supportive shoes. Sandals and loafers do not offer sufficient support and should not be worn with your brace. Your orthotist fits your orthosis based on the height of the heel on the shoe you were wearing at the time of your fitting. Allard USA encourages you to speak with your orthotist before selecting shoes that have significantly different heel heights than those you wore during your initial fitting. It is recommended to have some type of interface or orthotic between your foot and the footplate. Your orthotist may place an insole or custom footbed on top of the footplate; if not, ask your orthotist what type of interface will be best for you.

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How do I clean my brace?

It is recommended to wash liners and straps approximately twice per week. Follow the washing instructions on the liner. The brace itself can be gently cleaned with mild soap and water.

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What can I do in my Allard AFO brace?

Many activities that individuals with a normally functioning gait do are possible in your brace. The activity level of those wearing Allard family of AFO braces vary widely from sedentary to very active (walking, running, cycling, triathlons, etc.). It is best to discuss your recommended activity level with your orthotist or primary care physician.

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What are the limitations of my Allard AFO brace?

It is recommended that certain activities are modified to extend the life and functionality of your brace. When climbing stairs, the wearer should place their entire foot on the step instead of walking on the balls of their feet. Likewise, when climbing a ladder, the center of the foot should be placed on the rung to minimize weight bearing on the ball of the foot alone.

Squatting should be avoided as it will significantly increase the stress on the brace and increase the risk of breakage. Take care to not leave your brace laying down to reduce possibility of someone stepping or sitting on it. Do not expose your brace to temperature extremes such as leaving it in a car trunk on a hot day or outdoors during extreme cold. Be sure to check the skin area around the brace as well as the brace itself every day for irritation or abnormalities, especially if there is reduced feeling in the lower extremities.

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Who might the Allard family of AFO braces not be right for?

Ultimately, a certified orthotist should be consulted about whether an Allard AFO brace is appropriate for you. However, some instances in which Allard AFO braces may not be the best solution are: Leg ulcers

  • Moderate to severe edema (swelling caused by fluid accumulation)
  • Moderate to severe foot deformities **NOTE: Some foot amputations can be managed with the insertion of a partial foot prosthesis
  • Severe hyperextension of the knee that cannot be managed orthotically **NOTE: Ask your orthotist about Allard’s COMBO brace in combination with the ToeOFF®
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Are the Allard family of AFO braces covered by warranty?

Yes. The warranty policies for our AFO products are as follows:

  • ToeOFF®, Ypsilon®, or BlueROCKER® Braces – up to one year or two (2) replacements, whichever comes first
  • Adult SoftKIT for ToeOFF®, BlueROCKER®, or Ypsilon® – 90 days
  • KiddieGAIT® or KiddieROCKER® Brace – 6 months from the date the child was originally fit with the brace, or one replacement, whichever comes first
  • KiddieGAIT® SoftKITs – 30 days
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My brace is cracking and/or broke. What do I do?

Please contact your orthotist immediately so that they can order you a replacement brace. If you do not recall where you were fitted, please call our Customer Service Specialists to help you find a nearby facility that can help.

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Can’t find the answer to your question? Our customer service department is happy to help!

Phone (Monday through Friday 8:30AM – 6:00PM Eastern Standard Time)
TOLL FREE: (888) 678-6548 
LOCAL: (973) 983-6000
Fax: (800) 289-0809
Email: info@allardusa.com
Website: www.allardafo.com

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