Learn About Foot Drop

What is the definition of Foot Drop?

Foot drop is when you have difficulty lifting the front part of your foot. This may cause you to drag your foot when you walk. Foot drop, also called drop foot, can be caused by a problem with the muscles, nerves, or anatomy of your foot or leg.

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What are the alternative names for Foot Drop?

Peroneal nerve injury - foot drop; Foot drop palsy; Peroneal neuropathy; Drop foot

What are the causes of Foot Drop?

Foot drop is not a condition by itself. It is a symptom of another disorder. Foot drop can be caused by a number of health conditions.

The most common cause of foot drop is peroneal nerve injury. The peroneal nerve is a branch of the sciatic nerve. It supplies movement and sensation to the lower leg, foot, and toes.

Conditions that affect the nerves and muscles in the body can lead to foot drop. They include:

  • Peripheral neuropathy. Diabetes is the most common cause of peripheral neuropathy. Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease is a common inherited peripheral neuropathy.
  • Muscular dystrophy, a group of disorders that cause muscle weakness and loss of muscle tissue.
  • Polio is caused by a virus, and can cause muscle weakness and paralysis

Crossing the legs can also damage the peroneal nerve.

Brain and spinal cord disorders can cause muscle weakness and paralysis and include:

  • Stroke
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Multiple sclerosis
What are the symptoms of Foot Drop?

Foot drop can cause problems walking. Because you can't raise the front of your foot, you need to raise your leg higher than normal to take a step to avoid dragging your toes or tripping. The foot may make a slapping noise as it hits the ground. This is called a steppage gait.

Depending on the cause of foot drop, you may feel numbness or tingling on the top of your foot or shin. Foot drop may occur in one or both feet, depending on the cause.

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What are the current treatments for Foot Drop?

Treatment of foot drop depends on what is causing it. In some cases, treating the cause will also cure foot drop. If the cause is a chronic or ongoing illness, foot drop may be permanent.

Certain people may benefit from physical and occupational therapy.

Possible treatments include:

  • Braces, splints, or shoe inserts to help support the foot and keep it in a more normal position.
  • Physical therapy can help stretch and strengthen muscles and help you walk better.
  • Nerve stimulation may help retrain the nerves and muscles of the foot.

Surgery may be needed to relieve pressure on the nerve or to try to repair it. For long-term foot drop, your provider may suggest fusing the ankle or foot bones. Or you may have tendon surgery. In this, a working tendon and attached muscle is transferred to a different part of the foot.

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What is the outlook (prognosis) for Foot Drop?

How well you recover depends on what is causing foot drop. Foot drop will often go away completely. If the cause is more severe, such as stroke, you may not recover completely.

When should I contact a medical professional for Foot Drop?

Call your health care provider if you have trouble walking or controlling your foot:

  • Your toes drag on the floor while walking.
  • You have a slapping gait (walking pattern in which each step makes a slapping noise).
  • You are unable to hold up the front of your foot.
  • You have decreased sensation, numbness, or tingling in your foot or toes.
  • You have ankle or foot weakness.
Common peroneal nerve dysfunction
What are the latest Foot Drop Clinical Trials?
Automated Mechanical Peripheral Stimulation to Treat Freezing of Gait in Patients With Parkinson's Disease and Subthalamic Nucleus Deep Brain Stimulation (STN-DBS) - a Randomized Double-blind, Sham Controlled, Cross-over Trial
Summary: The objective is to investigate whether AMPS (Automated Mechanical Peripheral Stimulation) is effective in reduction of FOG measured via the FOG-AC (Freezing Of Gait Assessment Course) in people with Parkinson Disease and STN-DBS (Subthalamic Nucleus Deep Brain Stimulation) in a randomized, double-blind, sham-controlled, cross-over trial
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Characterization of Abnormal Reflex Couplings Via H-reflex Stimulation
Summary: The purpose of this study is to examine the reflex excitability of the rectus femoris in individuals with and without post-stroke Stiff-Knee gait. We use electrical stimulation of the peripheral nerve innervating the rectus femoris for a well-controlled reflex stimulus. We are investigating whether reflex excitability of the rectus femoris correlates with gait kinematics.
What are the Latest Advances for Foot Drop?
A 6-Month Home-Based Functional Electrical Stimulation Program for Foot Drop in a Post-Stroke Patient: Considerations on a Time Course Analysis of Walking Performance.
Summary: A 6-Month Home-Based Functional Electrical Stimulation Program for Foot Drop in a Post-Stroke Patient: Considerations on a Time Course Analysis of Walking Performance.
Effects of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation on gait disorders and cognitive dysfunction in Parkinson's disease: A systematic review with meta-analysis.
Summary: Effects of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation on gait disorders and cognitive dysfunction in Parkinson's disease: A systematic review with meta-analysis.
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Sacral Pedicle Subtraction Osteotomy for Treatment of High-Grade Spondylolisthesis: A Technical Note and Review of the Literature.
Summary: Sacral Pedicle Subtraction Osteotomy for Treatment of High-Grade Spondylolisthesis: A Technical Note and Review of the Literature.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: May 04, 2021
Published By: Joseph V. Campellone, MD, Department of Neurology, Cooper Medical School at Rowan University, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Del Toro DR, Seslija D, King JC. Fibular (peroneal) neuropathy. In: Frontera WR, Silve JK, Rizzo TD, eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 75.

Katirji B. Disorders of peripheral nerves. In: Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, Newman NJ, eds. Bradley's and Daroff's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 106.

Thompson PD, Nutt JG. Gait disorders. In: Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, Newman NJ, eds. Bradley's and Daroff's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 25.