Foot Drop

Foot drop (drop foot) is a disorder that makes it hard to impossible to lift the foot at the ankle. There may also be pain, weakness, and numbness in the foot. Because it's hard to lift the foot, you may tend to drag your foot and toes when walking. To make up for this, you may find yourself raising your leg high on the affected side while walking.

Food drop has many possible causes. These include:

  • Injury to a nerve around the spinal cord

  • Compression to a nerve in the spine

  • Nerve damage in the leg

  • Stroke

  • Tumor on a nerve

  • Peripheral nerve damage (neuropathy) from diabetes or other causes

  • Spinal cord injury

  • ALS (Lou Gehrig disease), multiple sclerosis, or Parkinson disease

  • Brain tumor (rare)

Treatment usually focuses on treating the cause. Surgery may be an option to treat the underlying problem. If you are having trouble walking because of the foot drop, an in-shoe splint or orthotic device may help. A cane or walker may help you maintain your balance. Talk with your healthcare provider about these options. They may suggest physical therapy or a device that stimulates the muscles or nerves that lift the foot.

Home care

  • Follow the treatment plan suggested by your healthcare provider

  • If you have reduced feeling in your foot, take extra precautions to protect it:

    • Wear comfortable, correct-fitting shoes. Don't wear sandals or open-toed shoes.

    • Have your foot checked if you have a reddened area that doesn't go away within 30 minutes.

    • Wash your feet daily with clean, running water and mild soap.

    • After drying, apply a moisturizing cream or lotion.

    • Wear cotton socks and change them every day.

    • Trim toenails carefully. Don't cut your cuticles.

    • Don't use heating pads or hot water bottles on your feet.

    • Don't put your foot in a hot tub without first checking the temperature with your hand or elbow.

    • Check your feet daily for skin breaks, blisters, swelling, or redness. If you have a sore that does not heal, see your healthcare provider right away.

    • Schedule yearly foot exams.

  • Be cautious when walking and when going up or down stairs.

  • Remove throw rugs and clutter from walkways in your home.

  • Weakness or loss of feeling in the foot or leg may interfere with your ability to safely drive a car. Discuss this concern with your healthcare provider before you resume driving.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider or as advised by our staff.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider if any of the following occur:

  • Increasing pain, weakness, numbness in the foot or leg

  • Any redness, swelling, or sore on your foot that does not heal

  • New injury to the foot

  • Symptoms get worse or you have new symptoms

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