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What is Foot Drop?

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).

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.

Food Drop

What Causes Foot Drop?

Nerve injury

Nerve injury

Most commonly, foot drop is caused by an injury to the peroneal nerve. The peroneal nerve is a branch of the sciatic nerve that wraps from the back of the knee to the front of the shin. Because it sits very close to the surface, it may be damaged easily.

Muscle disorders

Muscle disorders

Conditions that cause the muscles to progressively weaken or deteriorate may cause foot drop. Disorders may include muscular dystrophy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and polio.

Brain or spinal disorders

Brain or spinal disorders

Neurological conditions can contribute to foot drop. Conditions may include stroke, multiple sclerosis (MS), cerebral palsy and Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.

Managing Foot Drop

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:

  • Therapy to strengthen your foot, ankle and lower leg muscles
  • Wearing a brace or ankle-foot orthosis to support your foot in a normal position
  • Functional electrical stimulation can help lift the foot during mobility
  • Surgery to fuse the ankle or foot bones may be possible in severe or long-term cases

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