Foot drop, also known as dropped foot or drop foot, is the inability to raise the front part of the foot due to weakness or paralysis of the muscles that lift the foot (National Institute of Neurological Disorders). This is often caused by nerve injury (typically to the peroneal nerve), muscle disorders, or brain and spinal disorders.
Consequentially, people who have foot drop scuff their toes along the ground; they may also bend their knees to lift their foot higher than usual to avoid the scuffing, which causes what is called a "steppage" gait.
Luckily, there are some solutions available to help you manage foot drop depending on the level of your condition. In some instances, foot drop may require surgery. For those whose foot drop is less severe, a foot drop brace could be a viable option.
Recovery depends on the cause of foot drop and how long you’ve had it. In some cases it can be permanent. There are steps you can take to help support your foot and improve walking ability.
Foot Drop Treatment Options Include:
Wearing a foot drop brace or ankle-foot orthosis (AFO) to support your foot in a normal position is one of the most beneficial ways to manage foot drop. A traditional AFO brace for foot drop envelops the calf, ankle, and foot to support the front of the foot. However, some patients may be candidates for alternative foot drop braces that are more practical for their condition.
One downside to an AFO brace, is that they can take up a significant amount of space inside the shoe, causing people to have to wear less than optimal shoe styles. Less severe cases of foot drop can be effectively treated with slimmer foot drop braces, like the SaeboStep, which is designed to lift the front of the foot and promote a safer, more natural stride while walking. For practical and aesthetic reasons, many patients want an outside-the-shoe support system, especially so they can continue wearing a comfortable shoe of their choosing.
Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) is a great way to to promote movement in the feet for those suffering with foot drop. FES uses electrical pulses to restore or improve function in paralyzed muscles, encouraging physical activity. During FES, low-level electrical pulses are used to trigger muscle contractions. Over time, these low-level pulses re-engage the muscles, increasing the chances of recovery from conditions like foot drop. Pairing electrical stimulation with a foot drop brace can provide optimal results and help lift the toes up more easily.
Electrical stimulation devices such as the SaeboStim Spa can calm the nerves and increase blood flow which allows the nerve cells the potential to recover.
Using products such as foot drop braces and electrical stimulation are very effective for improving foot drop recovery. But it's important to note that continuing therapy – whether at home or with an occupational and/or physical therapist – is equally as necessary in order to see results. Integrating exercise into your daily routine doesn't have to be difficult. Patients with foot drop can use simple objects such as resistance bands to strengthen the nerves and muscles in the foot.