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Foot Drop: Symptoms - Causes - Treatments

Author: Disabled World

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Published: 2015-07-09 - (Updated: 2019-10-29)


Information regarding foot drop, a sign of an underlying muscular, neurological, or anatomical issue.

Key Points:

Main Digest

Foot drop is defined as a gait abnormality in which the dropping of the forefoot happens due to weakness, irritation or damage to the common fibular nerve including the sciatic nerve, or paralysis of the muscles in the anterior portion of the lower leg. Foot drop can be caused by nerve damage alone or by muscle or spinal cord trauma, abnormal anatomy, toxins or disease. If you experience foot drop, you might drag the front of your foot on the ground when you walk. Foot drop is not a disease. Instead, foot drop is a sign of an underlying muscular, neurological, or anatomical issue. Sometimes, foot drop is temporary. In other instances, foot drop is permanent. If you have foot drop, you might need to wear a brace on your ankle and foot to hold your foot in a regular position.


Foot drop makes it hard to lift the front part of your foot, so it may drag on the floor when you walk. To counter this, you might raise your thigh when you walk, as if you were climbing stairs, to help your foot to clear the floor. The gait may cause you to slap your foot onto the floor with every step you take. In some instances, the skin on top of your toes and foot might feel numb. Foot drop commonly affects only one foot. Depending upon the underlying cause; however, it is possible for both feet to be affected.

Causes of Foot Drop

Foot drop is caused by paralysis or weakness of the muscles involved with lifting the front part of the foot. The underlying causes of foot drop are varied and might include the following:

Spinal Cord and Brain Disorders:

Disorders that affect the spinal cord or brain, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), stroke, or multiple sclerosis may cause foot drop.

Nerve or Muscle Disorders:

Various forms of muscular dystrophy, an inherited disease that causes progressive muscle weakness, might contribute to foot drop. Other disorders such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease or polio may also cause foot drop.

Nerve Injury:

The most common cause of foot drop is compression of a nerve in your leg that controls the muscles involved with lifting the foot. The nerve may also be injured during knee or hip replacement surgery, which can also cause foot drop. A nerve root injury in the spine can cause foot drop as well. People who have diabetes are more susceptible to nerve disorders, which are associated with foot drop.

Risk Factors

There is a nerve that controls the muscles that lift your foot. The nerve runs near the surface of your skin on the side of your knee closest to your hand. Activities that compress the nerve may increase your risk of foot drop. Examples of these activities may include:

Tests and Diagnosis

Foot drop is usually diagnosed during a physical examination. A doctor will want to watch you as you walk and might check some of the muscles in your leg for weakness. The doctor may also check for numbness on your shin and on the top of your toes and foot. In some instances, additional testing is recommended.

At times, foot drop is caused by an overgrowth of bone in the spinal canal, or by a cyst or tumor pressing on the nerve in the spine or knee. Imaging tests may help to pinpoint these forms of issues and may include:

Lets Look at Gait

The normal gait cycle is:

The drop foot gait cycle requires more exaggerated phases.

Gait Changes and Cognitive Disability - Alzheimer's Association - (2012-07-15).

Foot Drop Treatment Methods

Treatment for foot drop depends on the underlying cause. If the underlying cause is successfully treated, the person's foot drop may improve or disappear entirely. If the underlying cause cannot be treated, foot drop might be permanent. Specific treatment for foot drop can include the following:

Home and Lifestyle

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Disabled World is strictly a news and information website provided for general informational purpose only and does not constitute medical advice. Materials presented are in no way meant to be a substitute for professional medical care by a qualified practitioner, nor should they be construed as such. Any 3rd party offering or advertising on does not constitute endorsement by Disabled World.

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