Drop foot, or foot drop, is a condition characterized by muscular weakness or paralysis affecting the front of your feet. When you have drop foot, the muscles that should lift the front of your foot won’t be strong enough to raise it all the way off the ground. This may cause your toes to “drag” or “drop” as you walk. While drop foot usually only affects one foot, sometimes it can affect both.
Since it visibly affects the way you walk, drop foot usually isn’t difficult to identify. However, drop foot is rarely a standalone condition. More often than not, it is a sign of another underlying problem.
Potential Causes of Drop Foot
Drop foot is frequently caused by nerve dysfunction. Just like drop foot, a lot of different things can cause or contribute to nerve problems, including:
- “Trapped” or compressed nerves in your knee or spine
- Nerve damage sustained during surgery or via injury
- Complications caused by diabetes, which are called neuropathy
Drop foot is also associated with disease- or genetics-related muscle weakness, such as muscular dystrophy, spinal muscular dystrophy, or motor neuron disease. Sometimes drop foot is also caused—or exacerbated by—potentially deadly conditions, like a stroke.
Since drop foot can have a variety of causes, some of which are very serious, it’s critically important that you seek professional care.
In most cases, treatment for drop foot is fairly straightforward. Your podiatrist will design an ankle-foot orthotic (AFO), a sort of custom-fitted base which holds your foot in a properly aligned position. By forcing your foot to face the right way, your AFO helps you avoid dragging it when you walk.
There are several varieties of AFO to choose from:
- Standard AFOs
- Articulated AFOs
- Posterior leaf-spring AFOs
- Ground-floor reaction AFOs
Podiatrists may have other AFO options, depending on your specific needs. However, each AFO has its own uses and restrictions. Standard AFOs, for instance, do not allow any ankle flexibility, whereas articulated AFOs have a mechanical joint allowing for a greater range of movement and a more natural gait.
Along with an AFO, your podiatrist will likely also prescribe physiotherapy, or exercises and movements which help you regain the strength and mobility needed to overcome drop foot.
Contact us today to learn more about your treatment options.