Drop Foot

What is it: Foot drop, or drop foot as it may also be called, refers to a weakening of the muscles that allow one to flex the ankle and toes, causing the individual to drag the front of the foot while walking and to compensate for this scuffle by bending the knee to lift the foot higher than usual.

Important Facts: A quick way to test for foot drop is to try to walk on the heels. If this proves difficult, drop foot may be present.

While foot drop is a neuromuscular disorder that affects the nerves and muscles, it is not actually a disease in itself but rather a symptom of some other medical problem, possibly by a condition in the low back.

The most common symptom of drop foot, a high step page gait is often characterized by raising the thigh up in an exaggerated fashion while walking, as if climbing the stairs.

Treatment Duration: Typical treatments for drop foot include: foot drop braces/splints (orthoses), physical therapy, non-surgical treatments, drop foot surgery.

Do’s/Don’ts: 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 risk of foot drop. Examples include:

Crossing your legs. People who habitually cross their legs can compress the peroneal nerve on their uppermost leg.

Prolonged kneeling. Occupations that involve prolonged squatting or kneeling — such as picking strawberries or laying floor tile — can result in foot drop.

Wearing a leg cast. Plaster casts that enclose the ankle and end just below the knee can exert pressure on the peroneal nerve.