What is Foot Drop?

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Foot drop is a gait abnormality condition in which an individual finds it difficult to lift the front part of the foot, causing it to “drag” on the ground while walking. However, foot drop is not a disease, but a disorder affecting nerves and muscles. It is a sign of an underlying medical problem, including conditions that affect the lower part of the back. It may strike a single foot or both feet, and can vary in duration (permanent or temporary).

Foot drop among males outnumbers females by a ratio of almost 3:1.

Foot Drop Symptoms

Foot drop makes it difficult to naturally raise the front part of your foot, so it is normally seen as an individual walks. In order to avoid dragging the forefoot while walking, they will overcompensate by raising the leg from the thigh. This will look more like a “march” or stair climbing. Because of this more exaggerated movement, there can be discomfort to the foot caused by the increased impact as the foot comes down to make contact with the ground. It’s not uncommon to experience some numbness or tonging in the toes.

Other symptoms of foot drop include:

  • difficulty in lifting the foot at the ankle
  • difficulty flexing the foot upward
  • inability to walk normally in heel-to-toe fashion
  • Muscle atrophy in the leg
  • Inability to engage in activities involving the use of the front of the foot

Causes of Foot Drop

Foot drop usually points to an underlying problem. This can be muscle damage, anatomical problems affecting the foot, and nerve damage (neuropathy).

There are various conditions and diseases that can lead to foot drop, such as:

  • A stroke or tumor
  • Diabetes
  • Peroneal nerve damage
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Motor neuron disease
  • Negative reactions to drugs or alcohol
  • Injured foot or lower leg
  • Lower back condition


There are different kinds of treatment for foot drop based on the cause. Some of the common treatments are listed below:

  1. Foot drop Orthoses (braces and splints)
    Orthoses stabilizes your ankle and the foot. You can use an ankle-foot-orthosis (AFO) to keep the dropped foot off the ground as you walk. This makes it much easier to walk without adjusting your gait.
  2. Physical therapy
    Physical therapy exercises can greatly help the affected muscles. This is especially necessary if the foot drop causes a significant gait disturbance. Specific physical therapy for foot drop include gait training, which teaches you how to walk correctly.
  3. Nerve stimulation
    Stimulating the nerve that lifts the foot improves foot drop and also makes it easier to walk normally.
  4. Surgery
    Surgery may be recommended by your podiatric surgeon in order to repair or decompress damaged nerves. This is most effective in cases of temporary foot drop. For those cases that are permanent, a surgical procedure involving transfer of tendon attachment or fuses of the ankle joint may help an individual improve overall stability and restore a more normal gait.

At Houston Foot and Ankle Care, we understand that foot drop may not only cause physical discomfort and pain, it can also cause distress as an individual is forced to deal with the change it brings. If you feel that weakness in the foot is causing problems, call (713) 541-3199 to schedule an appointment with Houston podiatrist Gabriel Maislos, DPM, FACFAS. Dr. Maislos is brings years of skill in treating foot drop – both conservative and surgical treatment – and he will help you restore a normal gait using the latest innovations. We accept most major forms of medical insurance.

Call (713) 541-3199 if you experience:

  • difficulty raising front of foot
  • need to raise the whole leg to avoid dragging forefoot while walking
  • numbness or tingling while walking

Houston Foot and Ankle