The most common symptom of foot drop, high steppage gait, is often characterized by raising the thigh up in an exaggerated fashion while walking, as if climbing the stairs.

High steppage gait is associated with one of the following:

  • Dragging of the foot and toes
  • Scraping of the toes across the ground
  • Uncontrolled slapping of the toes against the ground

The affected muscles are usually used to keep the foot off the ground during the swing-through portion of walking. When these are weak, they cannot keep the foot up and foot will scrape across the ground if the foot is not picked up high.

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Additional difficulties that commonly accompany foot drop include:

  • The inability to raise the foot at the ankle
  • The inability to point the toes upward at the body (dorsiflexion)
  • Unable to walk normally in heel-to-toe fashion

Other foot drop symptoms may include one or a combination of the following:

  • An exaggerated, swinging hip motion. With foot drop, the hip may swing out in an effort to counteract the toes from catching the ground.
  • Limp foot. The affected foot my flop away from the body.
  • Tingling, numbness, and slight pain in the foot. These symptoms can range from a slight tingling sensation to a complete lack of feeling in the foot. This symptom can make everyday activities such as walking or driving a car difficult. This kind of foot pain may be linked to lower back pain.
  • See Foot Pain Causes and Treatments

  • Difficulty engaging in activities requiring the use of the front of the foot. For example, climbing the stairs may become difficult with foot drop.
  • Muscle atrophy in the leg. Muscle atrophy refers to a muscle decreasing in mass and weakening. As the anterior tibialis, extensor halluces longus, and the extensor digitorum longus muscles are most affected by foot drop, atrophy may occur and make it harder to exert force with the leg and foot.
  • Foot drop may be experienced in one or both feet. If the foot drop is caused by a low back condition, it is typically experienced in one foot.

Foot drop is a condition that can be either temporary or permanent, depending on the underlying cause and treatment.

As there are various symptoms of foot drop, there are many different foot drop causes that merit understanding and evaluation when seeking treatment.

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Written by Grant Cooper, MD