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Foot Drop

Foot drop aka drop foot, is a general term for when one has trouble lifting the front part of their foot.  It is not a disease but it is a sign of an underlying muscular, neurological or anatomical problem.

It can be temporary or permanent depending on the cause.  Some with this condition may need to wear a brace to hold the foot in a normal position.

Symptoms

Foot drop makes it difficult to lift the front part of your foot, causing a possible drag.  To compensate some may raise their thigh as though climbing stairs (steppage gait) to avoid this drag.  In some cases, the skin on the top of your foot and toes feels numb and it can affect one or both feet depending on cause.

Causes

Foot drop is caused by weakness or paralysis of the muscles involved in lifting the foot. Some causes may include:

  • Nerve injury. This is the most common and happens when there is compression of a nerve that controls the muscles involved in lifting the foot (peroneal nerve). This nerve can also be injured during surgeries like knee replacements.

    A pinched nerve in the spine can also cause foot drop. People who have diabetes are more susceptible to nerve nerve disorders and foot drops.

  • Muscle or nerve disorders like muscular dystrophy, can contribute to foot drop. So can other disorders, such as polio or Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.

  • Brain and spinal cord disorders like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), multiple sclerosis or stroke may also cause foot drop.

Risk factors

 

Activities that compress the peroneal nerve can increase your risk of foot drop. Some may include:

  • Crossing your legs. People who habitually cross their legs can compress the peroneal nerve.

  • Prolonged kneeling. Occupations that involve prolonged squatting or kneeling.

  • Wearing a leg cast. Plaster casts can exert pressure on the peroneal nerve.