Foot drop, which is sometimes called drop foot, is a term used to describe difficulty in lifting the front part of the foot when you walk. This condition is not a disease or an illness; rather, it’s a symptom of a muscular, anatomical, or neurological problem. Depending on the underlying cause, foot drop can sometimes be temporary and go away on its own, but more often, it is a permanent condition.
Foot Drop Symptoms and Causes
The most apparent sign of foot drop is the inability to lift the front part of the foot, resulting in the foot being dragged on the ground. Other symptoms of the condition include:
- Walking with a higher step than usual—raising your thigh when you walk, as if you are climbing stairs or marching
- Slapping the foot down to the ground when taking a step
- Feeling of numbness on the top of your foot and toes
Foot drop is caused by weakness or paralysis of the muscles responsible for lifting the front part of the foot. Some of the causes of foot drop include the following:
- Nerve injury. An injury or compression of the peroneal nerve in the leg that controls the muscles used when lifting the foot can cause foot drop. This type of injury can often occur from knee or hip surgery. An injury to the nerve root in the spine can also cause foot drop as well as a sports-related injury or childbirth injury.
- Brain or spinal cord disorder. A disorder such as MS, cerebral palsy, or Charcot-Marie Tooth disease can affect the brain or spinal cord and can cause foot drop. Having a stroke can also cause the condition.
- Nerve or muscle disorder. Foot drop can be caused by certain disorders that cause muscle weakness such as muscular dystrophy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or polio.
Treatment Options for Foot Drop
If you notice your toes dragging on the floor when you walk or have other signs of foot drop, see a podiatrist as soon as possible for an evaluation. Treatment for foot drop depends on the cause, so it is essential to see a podiatrist to find out what options can work for your specific issue. The goal of treatment is to maximize mobility, so you can walk without dragging your toes. When the underlying condition is addressed, foot drop can resolve on its own.
If foot drop is due to peroneal nerve damage, treatment is focused on controlling the symptoms and may consist of pain relievers or other medications to manage pain. In addition, treatment for foot drop may also consist of:
- Brace or support. Wearing a brace or support on your ankle and foot can keep it in place, so you can walk in a normal position.
- Custom orthotics. Orthotics can be worn inside the shoes to help improve walking by adding support to certain areas of the foot to keep it straight.
- Physical therapy. Physical therapy can help maintain muscle strength in the lower legs.
- Corticosteroid injections. Injections of a corticosteroid medication can be used to reduce swelling and pressure if a nerve compression occurs.
- Electrical nerve stimulation. Electrical impulses can be sent through a small device to stimulate the nerves in the lower leg to help lift the leg.
- Surgery. In some instances, surgery may be an option to consider when conservative treatments do not provide improvement of symptoms. If foot drop is permanent, surgery can be done to fuse the ankle and foot joint. Other procedures that can help with foot drop are nerve decompression surgery or a tendon transfer, where a tendon is replaced with a stronger muscle from the other leg to pull the foot up.
Are You Looking for Expert Foot Care in Austin, TX?
If you are looking for expert foot care, you should reach out to an experienced podiatrist. Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists can help. Our office provides a wide variety of advanced, effective treatment options for all kinds of painful conditions. Ready to schedule an appointment? Contact us online or call our Austin office at 512.328.8900.