Child In Leg Braces

Child in Leg Braces.

My mother wanted a perfect child.

When I began primary school, age six, my mother did not like the way I walked, deciding that I toed out too much.

She took me to several pediatricians before she found one who agreed with her.

With a diagnosis of “external tibial torsion” or out-toeing confirmed, she took the resulting prescription and me to an orthotist for measuring and fitting of braces.

Braces then had a calf band attached to two metal bars, with ankle T-straps, and stirrups attached to orthopedic shoes. These were for both legs from the feet to just below the knees.

Mother took me back to the orthotist when the braces were ready.

I had no idea what was happening, when he fitted the finished product to my legs. I had no way of knowing these braces were going to be a permanent part of my life for years to come.

He had me practice walking, and then took the braces off to make some minor adjustments. Then he put the braces back on, and said to my mother: “She is ready to go now.”

Mother took my hand and I stumbled along beside her, effectively crippled.

I certainly cried a lot when I tried to walk in these cumbersome braces.

Not only were they very heavy, there was no flex in the ankle joints and my feet were held firmly in proper alignment.

I remember tripping a lot.

Also going up and down stairs was slow and awkward.

Because the calf band was just below the knee, my lower legs were both held rigidly, I had to use a railing on the stairs.

Going down stairs I edged sideways and went down, one foot then the other. Coming up I was able at first to do one foot on one step and one on the next.

However, as my muscles became weaker, I could only put one foot on the step, and drag the other one up to the same step.                                                                                                                      

In those days, girls wore skirts which only came to the knees, so the braces were very visible underneath.

Children at school had been warned not to stare or comment, but they did anyway.

Coming and going from school, I had to walk out in public and I heard lots of comments of “oh my... that poor little crippled girl!”

I only met one other child, a girl also, with braces during the time I wore mine and I heard that she had polio.

With the braces on, I could hardly walk and running was out of the question, as was playing.

Standing or sitting were the only options with my legs and feet rigidly controlled, with the feet properly aligned.

Needless to say if complained to my mother she would say: “just be thankful your legs are going to be straight and your feet will be too.”

When she discovered that my favorite night time sleeping position was with both feet pointed out, she remedied that very quickly.

I found myself having to wear a bar at night with high top shoes attached, and over-corrected to an in-toeing position.

This hurt worse than the day braces.

I was not allowed to untie the shoes, so I had to call for help if I needed to go to the bathroom in the night.

I could stand up painfully in this position with my feet severely pointed in but could not walk.

So, I had to slide out of the bed and put my feet carefully on the floor and hold onto the dresser while mother positioned a wheelchair beside me. Very carefully I turned, and sat down.

In the bathroom, mother had a metal standing frame, so I could stand up holding onto it and sit on the toilet.

Mother had realized very quickly that this bar and shoes keeping my feet in the over-corrected toe-in position was also a means of treatment of my condition.

So, to achieve maximum results, I was kept in the shoes with the bar all the time I was at home.

I used to look forward to going to school, and to church because I got to wear the leg braces and walk about.

For years the only change in the braces was bigger, heavier shoes, and longer metal bars.

Six years later, when I was twelve, it was decided that I had reached full skeletal growth and should be able to be released from the braces.

However, my mother did not think that was a very good idea as she was afraid that I would begin toeing-out again.

She decided to keep me in the braces after school and full time on weekends. Since we had two months of summer holidays right away, I spent that entire time restricted by the full time use of the braces. Mother still insisted on the night bar to prevent any deviation, and the shoes were still kept in the over corrected toe-in angle.

Eventually I advanced to orthopedic shoes with lifts on the soles to prevent any attempt at out-toeing. These were awkward and cumbersome.

Later on I had orthopedic shoes with gait plate orthotics inside. These were designed to prevent any toeing out also.

Mother took me swimming so that my leg muscles would not atrophy completely.

However, after years in braces and corrective shoes, my muscles were weak from inactivity.

I had to learn how to walk again without braces, so I stumbled a lot.

Mother got a lot of attention and sympathy all this time as the “mother of a crippled child”

oldtimer49 oldtimer49
56-60, F
10 Responses Feb 5, 2010

I wore those braces as well. Although I was a lot younger, I don't remember as much. But now that I am older, I am having knee and hip issues. I wonder if it has anything to do with my younger days. Sorry you went through such a traumatic experience.

I was born in 1964 and diagnosed with Legg-Calve-Perhtes desease when I was four.

I was first molded into full leg braces with a Woden bar at the knees that I wore 24/7 for two years. My alcoholic doctor used to remove them with a circular saw and cut me several times before he finally committed suicide.

The new doctor used metal braces that I could remove at night while sleeping. By the time I was eight I was able to remove the braces for good.

I spent four years being teased by my classmates. They would often take my crutches and hit me with them while they taunted me. I heard the poor child comments, too. I once had two older women give me a dollar because they just didn't know what else to do to show their pity.

I still have the scars from the saw but I long ago spent that dollar.

I'm sorry you had to go through this, it hurts my heart. My oldest son was born with spina bifida, and uses braces to walk. Unfortunately, he also has to wear another pair at night to prevent contractures, as well as a back brace to correct scoliosis. Believe me when I say, most of us would rather our child never have to go through this. Not because he isn't perfect, he's my world, but because we hate to see our child in discomfort or pain. And most of us hate that "poor cripple child" look people give us. But it's better than ever hearing another child say "Oh, there's wheelchair-boy" again.

I remember my sister wearing one of those bar braces with the shoes on it. I was pretty small, so the memories are a bit vague.

This story is great (in the sense that is very detailed). I am writing a film about a child with leg braces, but I am still doing research. thank you for writing this, it is very helpful and sorry you had to go through that.

Has this project progressed?

Hello, as a child I had to wear leg braces because of being pigeon toed and as an adult I have intense pain in my left leg especially worse at night when trying to sleep. I am trying to find out if this is connected to wearing those awful leg braces as a child. I have had this pain all of my life as far back as I can remember. In your research have you ran across this?

Yeah, the 60's. I had a short leg, so I was measured, and it was determined that I should have a 3/4 inch lift on the heel, and 1/2 inch on the sole of my left shoe. This meant no sneakers, nothing with a molded sole. My shoes always had to have the soles sewn on, and the heels nailed on so the lifts could be added. When I was about 5 (Kennedy was President) there was some discussion about including a brace on my left shoe, along with the lift, presumably to avoid damaging my ankle, but thankfully they finally decided it wasn't necessary. I found out years later from talking to my parents, that if the lift had been a full inch, there would have been an AFO with it.

I to had the shoes and bar inflicted on me all the time also and were changed for high top shoes (boots) that came high on my calfs. As you said they were painfull to wear and my boots were tied up so tight. 1960s

I grew up in the 1960's and it seems like the bar and shoes<br />
must have been used often to correct both in and out toeing.<br />
I never had to wear the leg braces but I did wear the shoes with<br />
a bar attached to them for a number of years. I in-toed, and remember<br />
tripping on my feet, and wearing down the insides of my shoes.<br />
When I started school, I had to wear specially made shoes that<br />
prevented in-toeing. <br />
As I got older the problem seemed to correct itself. Now that I am<br />
older I noticed that my shoes again showed wear on the inside.<br />
I had my gait checked by a doctor, and am now being treated with<br />

What condition does your child have?<br />
How old?<br />
It was a very horrible experience for me as my mother added a treatment option of her own, ie the bar and shoes which were very painful.<br />
This was fifty years ago, so braces were steel bars and shoes, all heavy and cumbersome.<br />
Most braces today for children appear to be plastic AFO's in regular shoes.<br />

As a mother who is contemplating whether or not to submit her child to the braces, were you too old for them to work?