Foot drop is a term used to describe difficulty lifting the front part of the foot. If you have foot drop, you may drag the front of your foot on the ground when you walk. Foot drop is also referred to as drop foot. Foot drop is not a disease, a sign of an underlying neurological, muscular, or anatomical problem. Foot drop can sometimes be temporary. If you do have foot drop, you may be required to wear a brace on your ankle and foot to hold your foot in a normal position.
Because foot drop makes it difficult to lift the front part of your foot, you might raise your thigh when you walk. You mimic climbing stairs (steppage gait), to help your foot clear the floor. This odd gait might cause you to slap your foot down onto the floor with each step you take. In some cases, this can cause the skin on the top of your foot and toes to go numb. Foot drop typically affects only one foot. Of course, depending on the underlying cause, it's possible for both feet to be affected. If your toes drag the floor when you walk, consult your doctor.
Foot drop is caused by weakness or paralysis of the muscles involved in lifting the front part of the foot. The underlying causes are varied and may include:
Foot slap refers to the sound made when the affected foot hits the floor. The lack of muscle control causes the foot to smack down on the floor with each step.
The peroneal nerve controls the muscles that lift your foot. This nerve runs near the surface of your skin on the side of your knee closest to your hand. Activities that compress this nerve can increase your risks. Examples include:
Foot drop is usually diagnosed during an exam by a doctor, who will want to watch you walk. They may also check many your leg muscles for weakness. You may also be checked for numbness on your shin and on the top of your foot and toes. In some cases, additional testing is recommended.
Foot drop is sometimes caused by an overgrowth of bone in the spinal canal or by a tumor or cyst pressing on the nerve in the knee or spine. Imaging tests can help pinpoint these types of problems.
Electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies measure electrical activity in the muscles and nerves. These tests can be uncomfortable, but they're very useful in determining the location of the damage along the affected nerve.
The underlying cause of foot drop will determine your course of treatment. If the underlying cause is successfully treated, foot drop may improve or even disappear. If the underlying cause can't be treated, foot drop may be permanent. Specific treatment for foot drop may include:
There are several different type of exercises normally performed with a physical therapist to improve a foot drop condition:
Mayfair Foot Care has years of experience treating patients with foot drop conditions and has helped them lead happier, more comfortable lives.