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Foot Drop


Disease: Foot Drop Foot Drop
Category: Bones, joints, muscles diseases
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Disease Definition:

Also called drop foot, foot drop is a general term used to describe difficulty lifting the front part of the foot. In case someone has foot drop, they might drag the front of their foot on the ground whenever they walk. Foot drop is a sign of an underlying neurological, anatomical or muscular problem. It's not a disease in itself. Foot drop could be either permanent of temporary. In case a person has foot drop, in order to hold their foot in a normal position, they may have to wear a brace on their ankle and foot.


Work Group:

Prepared by: Scientific Section

Symptoms, Causes


Usually, difficulty lifting the front part of the foot is the only sign of foot drop. The foot could slap down onto the floor with each step, or it could drag on the floor when walking. One way of compensating is by raising the thigh when walking, just like climbing the stairs. In some cases, this is called steppage gait.


Sometimes, pain, weakness or numbness in the foot could accompany foot drop. In most cases, only one foot is affected by foot drop. However, both feet could be affected, depending on the underlying cause.


Weakness or paralysis of the muscles below the knee that are involved in lifting the front part of the foot cause foot drop. However, the underlying causes of this condition could vary. Usually, muscular, anatomical and neurological problems overlap. These are some of the specific causes of foot drop:


Central nervous system disorders:

Foot drop may be caused by disorders that affect the spinal cord or brain, including multiple sclerosis, stroke or ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis).


Muscle or nerve damage:

Foot drop could be caused by an injury to the muscles that control the ankles and toes. Foot drop could also be caused due to nerve damage from an injury to the nerves in the lower spine or leg, or long-term nerve damage of diabetes (neuropathy). Nerve damage could also occur during knee or hip replacement surgery. Temporary foot drop could be triggered by pressure to the nerve on the outside of the shinbone just below the knee (peroneal nerve), just like when someone sits with their legs crossed for a long time.


Muscle or nerve disorders:

Foot drop may be contributed to by various forms of muscular dystrophy, an inherited disease that causes progressive muscle weakness. Foot drop could also be caused by various forms of compartment syndrome, a condition in which the nerves and blood vessels are compressed within an enclosed space.


Drug reaction:

Foot drop could be caused by various medications that could have toxic effects, such as certain drugs that are used in treating multiple sclerosis and some chemotherapy drugs that are used to treat cancer.





Depending on the underlying cause, treatment of foot drop will be determined. Foot drop could improve or even disappear in case the underlying cause is successfully treated. However, foot drop could be permanent if the underlying cause cannot be treated. These are some of the specific treatments for foot drop:


Physical therapy:

Exercises to improve the way the person walks could be helpful.


Braces or splints:

In order to help hold the foot in a normal position, the person could wear a brace on their ankle and foot or splint that fits into their shoe.


Nerve stimulation:

In some cases, foot drop could be improved by stimulating the peroneal nerve, which is the nerve that lifts the foot when a person steps, particularly if the foot drop was caused by a stroke. In some cases, a small and battery-operated electrical stimulator is implanted in the leg, while in other cases the stimulator is strapped to the leg just below the knee.



Spinal or nerve problems could sometimes be surgically corrected.


Helping people maximize their mobility and independence is the major goal of any type of treatment for foot drop.



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