Hiding afos or showing them. Which is better?

Before launching Trend-Able, only my immediate family (and a few men I dated postdivorce -TMI?) had actually seen me in my afos (ankle-foot orthosis). I mostly kept them hidden under my clothing, not so much out of shame (age & Xanax helped with that) but more because, here comes the cliché, they don’t define me.

Plus, they’re really ugly. I mean, who decided to make them bright blue? Couldn’t they have just as easily named them “Black Rockers”? or “Skin Tone Rockers”. Clearly, the brace designer doesn’t wear afos themselves, or, is totally fashion illiterate. Am I wrong?

They are not pretty, but in order to grow our perfectly imperfect tribe of people with invisible disabilities, & show all of my cute shoes for afos recommendations, I occasionally have to post photos of myself, actually in said braces.

Usually, when I post photos showing my braces on social media, I get a ton of comments like, ”you’re so brave” and ”I wish I was as confident as you”, etc..But, in my everyday life, off of Trend-Able’s Facebook & Instagram pages, I choose to conceal my afos.

The way I see it, everyone has ”stuff” and my disabilities/neuromuscular disorder (read about me here), doesn’t need to be my lead or overtake my style. I inherited CMT disorder; It’s not who I am. Plus, It’s not a subject I want to discuss in the first 30 seconds of meeting someone.

Just as there are people who, after completing chemo treatment for breast cancer, proudly sport pink ribbons & put ”I’m a survivor” bumper stickers on their cars, there are those choose not to.

As Trend-Able’s tagline reads, “my disability is not an accessory”. So, unless Gucci or Louis Vuitton start making leg braces, I’m good with keeping mine concealed under a cute pair of jeans or a maxi dress. But, that’s just me.

Which leads me to the question, why do other afo wearers choose to show or not show their afos? Are those that show their leg braces more confident than those of us who don’t? Are they immune to all the glances & stares? Do others hide their’s for similar reasons as me?

I asked some members of our tribe why they choose to show or not show their afos. I hope you find their responses as interesting & inspiring as I do. I would love to hear from you in the comments box at the end of this post about your choice!

PEOPLE WHO ROCK THEIR BRACES ON THE OUTSIDE

Daffny L.

”I choose to show them because I’m tired of hiding who I am. I want to live my life as fully as possible and embracing my braces has enabled me to accept myself in ways I never have before. And by doing so I have freed myself of the worries and fears I had before. It’s made me braver, happier, and more compassionate.”

Kaitlin P.

Hiding afos or showing them. Which is better?

”After I had surgery in October for a chipped bone and calf lengthening, my orthopedic surgeon said wearing an AFO after surgery was a must, even though I hadn’t worn one in over 20 years. I told myself, this brace is going to become my new best friend whether I like it or not.

I have a lot of feelings about this. I asked for a custom design and had the lab add glitter to make the brace match more of my personality.

Hiding afos or showing them. Which is better?

This brace makes me look “more disabled” than I have in recent years.

I get questions and stares, but the brace improves my ability to walk, run and work out, which improves my quality-of-life… . I am trying my best to look at it as being able to do things better than I did before, So, I’m trying my best to focus on that…I feel strong and confident wearing the brace, so I am celebrating it!!”

Julie S.

Hiding afos or showing them. Which is better?

”I want to defy the stereotypes that come with the word disabled – that stylish girls and adventurous girls can be disabled, and it doesn’t define us. I hope by wearing my braces publicly, others feel more comfortable wearing theirs out as well. I hope to normalize them so people won’t even think twice when they see them.”

PEOPLE WHO ROCK THEIR BRACES ON THE INSIDE

Cindy D.

”Muscular Dystrophy is fairly new for me, so I choose to conceal my braces. But, I’ve always loved blue jeans so it’s kind of a personal preference and comfort zone for me!

I work for an airline and my uniform conceals the braces. But recently, there was a little girl with the same type of braces (blue rockers) as me. I showed her mine and she said, “mommy, I want to be just like her”. She had the biggest smile on her face…it made me feel good :)”

Laura P.

“I’ve worn bilateral afos for 10 years now & have always concealed them in public. It’s just not my thing to ”bare my braces”. I don’t have a problem talking about the fact that I have foot drop & MS, I just don’t want to walk around with them & have that be what others focus on.

Thanks to Lainie’s blog, I have found a ton of fashionable shoes & clothing that conceals them. I’ve lost weight, exercise, & I’m more comfortable in my own skin than I was pre MS.

Julie F.

“I am fairly new to using AFOs and currently choose to keep them concealed under my clothes. I guess I’d rather not announce my “other-ness” right off. Anyone who spends any time with me will quickly find out that I have issues. I guess I want a bit of a delay on that, for my own self-preservation and vanity. It’s a complex issue for women in particular.”

PEOPLE WHO GO BOTH WAYS (SEXUAL CONNOTATION INTENDED)

Cyndi M

Hiding afos or showing them. Which is better?

“I wear bilateral AFOs. When I first started wearing them I only wore one brace. I didn’t have a problem showing it if I wore midi length dresses to work. As my autoimmune condition progressed, I started wearing a second brace. Two AFOs were more than I was emotionally able to share with the world & I only wore pants.

As time passed, I’ve grown more accepting of my condition and the AFO’s. I don’t mind so much if they peek out from under my midi dress or cropped pants. AFOs help me live my best possible life.”

Linda K.

“Whether I show my braces or not, depends on the temperature & my comfort level. If it’s summer, I’m more likely to show them. In the winter, I don’t. It’s really cold here! . The days of me having to always hiding my braces, are for the most part, over! I have a tribe and they are all my #cmtstrongtribe #bareit.”

Kimberly O

“For some time I didn’t show my leg braces because I had a difficult time accepting them. I really missed being able to just throw on my dance shoes and glide my way to the dance floor. With time, I’ve come to be content with my leg braces. When I look down at my feet after 4 years of paralysis, I tell myself to be grateful for each step I’m able to take because of them…..

When I put them on, I can stand and walk, which has led me to be more confident about showing them…When I go to church, and wear dresses or skirts, I mostly cover them. Of course, the right shoe makes a difference!”

Estela Lugo

Hiding afos or showing them. Which is better?

”I used to go to herculean efforts to try to hide my AFO’s growing up until my 30’s. I remember my first time braving it out about 6-7 years ago. It was a hot day in Florida and we were going on a family trip to Disney World. I figured, if I can’t show them at “The Happiest Place on Earth”, then where can I?

I was nervous about being stared at but also didn’t feel like melting all day in long pants. My best friend, (now boyfriend) turned to me and said, “Who cares? You look great and we’re gonna have an awesome time”. He was right. Nobody really seemed to notice much and we had the best day ever.

There are times still when I’ll wear boots over my braces with a skirt or dress but there are also times when I’m empowered by showing them. It opens conversations for disability awareness, inspires others and expresses the confidence I’ve found after many years of shame.”

Conclusion:

Hiding afos or showing them. Which is better?

Trend-Able (meaning me) is all about empowering people with tips, hacks & encouragement so that they can be the best versions of themselves, & live happy and amazing lives despite physical challenges.

If you feel confident & good about yourself showing your afos in public, then by all means, show them! If you don’t feel good about your yourself showing your afos, then don’t! As they say, when you look good, you feel good, and when you feel good, you look good. It’s an individual choice!

When a woman knows who she is, and lives true to herself, she radiates confidence & beauty – braces showing, or not!

 

Xoxo

Lainie

PS. Every Afo wearer needs an EmBRACE it tee. Pay it forward & shop them here.

26 Comments

      • I have greatly appreciated your posts! 2019 was rough, and I started out the year getting fitted for a carbon fiber bad boy… Or as my nephew says”robot leg”… Having a place to see that style is still an option and maybe things are a little different.
        Has anyone got cowboy boots to fit?

        • Hi Alicia,

          Thanks so much for reading & following! I once took a pair of 1.5 size bigger than my foot to a shoe peddler & had them ad a side zipper to the leather & rubber no-slip grips to the sole. I can also send you a few links to “cowboy like” boots that may work. Feel free to message me on Facebook or email me at info@trend-able.com. Wishing you a MUCH BETTER & awesome 2020. Lainie

  1. Dear Lainie,

    I stumbled upon your post about a year ago and I cannot emphasize how much the Tribe and you have empowered me to become more accepting of my “invisible” disability and my afo’s.

    I had Gillian Barrae at the age of 6 and have Bilateral drop foot. I am now 47 and have never been more comfortable with who I am. I do not show them frequently, but do not mind if some of it shows as much as I use to.

    I just want to THANK YOU and everyone else that has posted! I no longer feel so alone and isolated!

    • Arlene,

      Your comment makes me so happy & is exactly why I continue to work so hard on this website. I’m so happy you have never been more comfortable with who you are & it sounds like we have similar feelings about showing our bilateral afos

  2. Lainie, Thank you, as always, for your encouraging messages and ways to cope with disabilities. These views help to see how everyone is coping and living life in their own way, and what makes them feel most comfortable. We are all so different, yet struggle with many of the same thoughts, worries, issues, etc. SO It’s very rewarding to be a part of your tribe, Lainie and I appreciate you so much! I am (ugh) overweight, turning gray (61 yo), feeling down, AND wear one foot/leg brace and walk with a cane, unstable and fearful of falling. I have severe damage to my sciatica nerve and drop foot, sciatic neuropathy. I have no response in the nerve test on my left leg and foot. Yet I have awful Nerve pain!! The blood clots finally went away. I have Raynauds also. I’m supposed to wear compression stockings but they hurt my hands and feet and legs trying to put them on. Any suggestions?!? I hide my leg brace until summer then I wear capris because medication makes me so hot and the weather too. Though to me it doesn’t matter because people stare at me anyway because I walk with a cane and walk differently. Also I need 4E width shoes with double depth for the orthotics and can’t find anything but these old ugly tennis shoes. I have even tried some of your suggestions, but most are not that wide. Any suggestions? Sorry to vent..it’s just one of those kinda days. I am very thankful for my blessings and things that I can do! And recently found out I’m cancer free!

    • Hi,

      Never apologize to me & for sharing your truth. We all have those days & weeks 😀. Reading your comment here I immediately thought, the gray can easily be fixed if desired & I wonder if you lift weights etc to feel better about your body. In terms of the compression socks, I once posted a hack for people with hand issues. You could try having someone sew loops on the socks so that they are easier to grab & out on. There are 4E width shoes that I would suggest. Please email me or message & I’ll send you a few links. Tomorrow is a new day! 💜

  3. When I was working I always wore pants to hide my AFO’s, winter and summer. After I retired ( almost 3 years ago), I started going to the rec center at our university to work out and walk. I had to wear my AFO’s outside my leggings. At first I was self conscious, but after people (some I didn’t know and students) asked me what and why I was (wearing those things) I kind of forget I’m wearing them out!!! People who don’t want to ask me, ask someone else what’s going on and I‘ve brought a whole new awareness to a whole new group of people!!

  4. I am a recent AFO wear(er) and right now I don’t know how long I’ll need to wear them. They may not be the most stylish accessory but they help me to stand taller and walk in a more normal way. I was diagnosed with Cauda Equina Syndrome 10/26/19 and had emergency surgery. After 2 more surgeries and rehab I was told and shown how AFO’s help me to walk better and my hips are more stable along with my ankles. I’ve been wearing them with my workout leggings and I don’t mind people seeing them at all. They are a part of me, for the time being, and I wear them with pride knowing how much they help me.

  5. Shown or not shown, you look amazeballs! With something like this – and I don’t know anything because I don’t use leg braces so it’s just an outsider opinion – I think it’s such a personal one that it should be totally up to you, without any judgement either way. I debated what to do with my stoma bag when I wore a bikini once, and the first and only time in my life, but I realised that I felt bad doing it or not doing it because you can’t please everyone and it needs to be what makes you happy, what you’re comfortable with, however you feel that day. Leg braces, stoma bags, any other device or aid is there to help us live the best life we can or make things a little bit easier. Sod what it looks like. All the amazing ladies in the post rock the look however they choose to wear ’em. Fab post, very empowering!!

  6. I am with you on the colour choices.

    I’m appalled that most manufacturers of disability supports make them in black. Literally NO ONE comes in that colour. They should be made in anything from ivory to dark chocolate, the colours people come in. When I am a guest at a dressy event, the last thing I want to do is ugly up my pretty dress with a bulky, hideous black monstrosity hanging below my hem. When I want to wear something sleeveless, especially in the summer, why would I want a bulky, hideous black monstrosity covering me from elbow to mid-palm? It’s literally the first thing people see when I come into view. I want people to see ME and my nice outfit, not some sci-fi exoskeleton.

    I have written to every manufacturer of such pieces that I can find, asking them to please have some thought to those who prefer not to announce their disabilities like a neon sign as they enter a room. Obviously none of them have ever had to wear them, or they would be a little kinder to the wearer’s egos.

    I am now having to design an arm brace myself, with my daughter’s help (because I only have one fully functional arm) that will channel a lace corset, just so that I can go out to a dressy occasion without wanting to cover myself from neck to fingertips and feet. It’s unfair enough to have to deal with the need for the braces, but there’s no reason we have to hold our personal lives up to scrutiny and unsolicited comments on top of that.

    It boggles the mind why a manufacturer would CHOOSE to make disabled people have to disclose over and over and over again to total strangers, the reason behind their need for bracing.

    • Betina,

      I hear you & feel your frustration. These brace companies want people to ask about them to obviously sell more. I’m glad you & your daughter are creative & thinking outside of the box.

  7. Another awesome blog; thank you Lainie, and all the other beautiful women who commented! I used to be very self conscious about showing my braces, but I’ve been wearing them for 30 years, and don’t need another thing to obsess about. Totally agree with you about the color thing, too! I asked Allard why they cannot make various shades of skin tone shells? How difficult is that? They did not respond. ☹️ Sometimes, I wear skirts or dresses and just let them show. Occasionally, coworkers will see the braces and ask what did I do to myself? As if it was a recent development…… I walk so well with the braces most of the time, no one knows I’m wearing them under my pants. When they’re visible, it facilitates a conversation about CMT, so it’s kind of a win-win!
    Also, I love your recommendations on how to be stylish and have made many purchases, based on your blogs! So, yay! Thank you, again, Lainie! Keep on rockin!

    • Hi Marianne,

      That’s so annoying regarding Allard. I laughed out loud at “I don’t need another thing to obsess about”. Thanks so much as always for reading!

  8. Hi Ladies,
    I have worn blue rockers for a number of years recently I had to switch to a new AFO because the blue rocker was causing issues. For me, the only people who see my braces are my immediate family. I feel people will pity me, stare at me, feel bad for me if I show them so I choose not too. My biggest struggle is footwear however this site is absolutely amazing. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication.

  9. THANK YOU for creating this to help my friend. I remember when she was 1st having issues with walking and to have a support system like this is incredible! I am living with in-curable cancer and I do not let it define me so I completely resonated with some of the stories. Thankfully I have a support group I can lean on when I need to just like my girlfriend now has you! It makes dealing with a disease so much more livable when you know you’re not alone!! ❤

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