Characterized by an abnormal gait, foot drop is a condition where the front of the foot “drops” or toes drag while walking due to nerve damage or muscle weakness affecting the foot and ankle. Foot drop is rarely a standalone condition, but rather the result of either an underlying condition or a symptom another condition. Not specific to any age group, it can affect one foot or both feet.
If not the result of a traumatic injury, foot drop may be caused by weak muscles or tendons. Muscles may also become paralyzed due to a previous injury or preexisting condition. Considered a neuromuscular disorder, it can also be a symptom of radiating nerve damage, with the sciatic nerve, which travels from the lower back to the leg, being an example of a nerve that may affect sensitivity in the ankle or foot.
Symptoms usually affect one foot but both feet can be affected.
During an initial exam, a “drop test” may be performed in which a patient is asked to walk on their heels. If drooping of the forefront is noticed, further testing will likely be done to determine the source of the abnormality.
Should foot drop be related to a problem elsewhere, such as a herniated disc pressing on nerves in the lower back, the condition may disappear on its own if the nerve is no longer compressed. Surgery may be necessary to fuse foot and ankle bones together or repair damage to tendons or muscles.