I first met Ara Mirzaian at Scope Orthotics (now Hanger Clinic) in 2007. My podiatrist referred me to him for custom shoe inserts, but it was not until 2008 when I realized how awesome Ara really is. It was at that time my MS neurologist referred me for foot drop. Ara knew from my sad face that something was very wrong. I told him about my condition and how I’d been tripping and falling while running. I handed him the prescription my doctor wrote for an Ankle Foot Orthotic (AFO). Ara showed me the plastic AFOs he had on the shelf and said, frankly, there is no way I could run with any of those. The plastic would break the instant I overloaded it with the force of running. Tears welled up in my eyes. I thought my running days were over. He slipped out of the room and I saw him place a call. It was to my neurologist. He asked the doctor to rewrite the prescription for a style of AFO used by more active people, and potentially for me as a runner.
That first AFO had hinges on both side of the ankle and it hugged my lower shin like an air cast. The footbed and heel cup were so thick that I had to buy a larger running shoe for my right foot. I ran a few races with it, including one marathon, but it was not sturdy enough and was falling apart after only several months. Also, I was getting stares from other runners at races because the springs were squeaky and no one likes to listen to “eeek, eeek, eeek” for 26.2 miles! One guy actually did approach me after a race and called me “Squeaky” to my face! I was getting very self-conscious and wondering if I should even continue to run events.
Just as I was starting to get depressed about my bulky AFO, Ara called me. There was a new carbon fiber AFO created by Wade Bader at Kinetic Research in Florida. He said this device would be better for running. Ara made a cast of my leg and shipped it to Wade. A few weeks later, the Ultra G carbon fiber AFO arrived. Wow! Ara was so right!
My new AFO was light, durable and custom-made just for me. Ara did have to make minor adjustments to fine tune the device for running. Once he made those changes, the AFO became part of my leg. I even gave it a name, Frankie! If not for Ara’s patience and compassion for his clients, I would not have known about this great carbon fiber option.
Wade has since created another new AFO design called the Noodle. It is even lighter, sleeker and it feels springier to me. It just exudes “fast.” One guy at a race even commented that it is sexy! I am no longer self-conscious wearing my AFO. My newest device is named Jackson. It really is a brilliant design and I am so grateful to have both Ara and Wade on my team.
To date, Ara has casted me for six AFOs. I have completed 30 half marathons, 30 full marathons and one 30 mile race all with an AFO attached to my leg! And because of what they do for me, I am able to look forward to many more events!