What is Foot Drop?

Foot drop, or drop foot as it may also be called, refers to a weakening of the muscles that allow one to flex the ankle and toes, causing the individual to drag the front of the foot while walking and to compensate for this scuffle by bending the knee to lift the foot higher than usual.

A quick way to test for foot drop is to try to walk on the heels. If this proves difficult, foot drop may be present.

While foot drop is a neuromuscular disorder that affects the nerves and muscles, it is not actually a disease in itself but rather a symptom of some other medical problem, possibly by a condition in the low back. The possibility that foot drop may be caused by a condition in the low back may be overlooked, but it is important to evaluate in order to pursue appropriate foot drop treatment.

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Foot Drop Complications

Regardless of the foot drop cause for the specific patient, the fact remains that a dropped foot can produce many difficulties, including the inability to:

  • Raise the foot at the ankle
  • Point the toes upward at the body (this movement is known as dorsiflexion)
  • Walk normally in the heel-to-toe fashion.

Foot Drop Considerations

Patients with foot drop should be aware of the following:

  • Foot drop may be experienced in one or both feet. If the dropped foot is caused by a low back condition, it is typically experienced in one foot.
  • Foot drop is a temporary or permanent condition, depending on its cause and treatment.
  • Foot drop may be simplistically diagnosed by having difficulty raising up on their heels.
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Written by Grant Cooper, MD