The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Excuse Me, Did You Drop Your Foot?

Posted by on Monday, April 16th, 2012


If you hear the phrase “foot drop” you probably expect it to be part of a sentence like, “It was an 82,000 foot drop from my airplane to the ground, but that’s why they invented ejector seats.” If it is used in that way, then the foot problems are apparent–broken ankles, knees, shins, everything  will follow.

However, there is an injury called simply “foot drop,” and no jump out of an airplane is involved. Let’s discuss the problem.

Okay, what is foot drop? Does it mean my foot drops off my leg? No! Your foot stays on. But it’s not a very helpful foot. Foot drop is a condition that makes you unable to lift the front part of your foot, causing your toes to drag along the ground. It can be either permanent or temporary.

That is actually worse than I imagined. What causes it? Foot drop is related to nerve, brain, spinal, or muscle conditions. Here are some possibilities:

  • Injuries to the peroneal nerve – The peroneal nerve is part of the sciatic nerve that runs from the back of the knee to the front of the shin. Peroneal nerve injuries may be the result of sports injuries; diabetes; hip or knee replacement; childbirth; extreme weight loss; spending too much time kneeling or crossing your legs.
  • Spine and brain injuries – As you know, the spine and the brain are essentially the nerve center of the body, so if the right nerve goes wrong there, foot drop could follow. Some spinal or brain conditions that could cause foot drop are strokes, multiple sclerosis, or cerebral palsy, as well as any traumatic injuries that affect the spine or brain.
  • Degenerative muscle conditions – Diseases that weaken muscles can lead to foot drop. Think polio, ALS, and muscular dystrophy.

Aside from knowing that I have one of the above mentioned conditions, what would tell me that I have foot drop? Well, if you can’t lift the front of your foot when you walk, and you find yourself doing things like lifting your whole leg up to keep your toes from dragging on the ground, that’s a sign you have foot drop. To discuss what to do next, consult a podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900).

My toes are not fond of dragging on the ground. How can we treat this? Let’s assume that you’re treating any underlying conditions like injuries to your nerves, brain, or spinal cord. If you’re experiencing foot drop, but don’t know about any other conditions, you should identify those first, probably by seeing a general practitioner or a neurologist.

To actually help you deal with just the foot drop, a podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900) will likely suggest braces or splints that can help bring your foot into a more normal position. Physical therapy can help strengthen your leg and make it easier to operate your knee and ankle. Electronic stimulation devices can also be used to help deal with foot drop.

Sometimes surgery on the damaged nerve can be the solution. In other cases, a podiatric surgeon may be able to fuse ankle or foot bones, or move healthy tendons to improve mobility.

Foot drop is a condition that’s made all the more difficult if you’re already dealing with a serious disease or injury like those we described above. If you have it, though, you can at least take steps to try to manage it and hopefully heal it. If you realize that you have foot drop, or have any other foot problems, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, and Dr. Ryan Minara have helped thousands of people get back on their feet.



If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.