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Drop Foot: What Options Are There?

Drop foot results from an anatomical, muscular, or nerve issue, interfering with your ability to raise the front part of your foot. Your toes may drag when you walk, forcing you into a modified gait. Foot drop can be temporary or permanent, usually treated with braces to hold your foot at a more normal angle. In some cases, innovative surgical procedures may be able to help. 

For the best in treatment in the Chicago area, visit Oexeman Foot and Ankle. As a surgical foot and ankle specialist with expertise in lower extremity nerve function, Dr. Stephanie Oexeman is the podiatry expert partner you want on your side. Here’s what you need to know about your drop foot condition and treatment options. 

Reasons for drop foot

Also called foot drop, this condition stems from problems with muscles or nerves affecting motor and/or sensory functions in your foot. The most common cause of drop foot is compression of the peroneal nerve. This nerve controls the lifting motion of your foot, and it can be compressed or damaged anywhere along its length, resulting in the symptoms of drop foot. 

Other nerve damage, called neuropathy, may also cause drop foot. People with diabetes are susceptible to neuropathy and foot issues, so their risk of drop foot is higher than average. Neuropathy can also cause feelings of numbness, tingling, or weakness in the leg and foot. 

Diseases that cause muscle or nerve dysfunction can also contribute to drop foot. These conditions could include: 

  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Charot-Marie-Tooth disease
  • Polio
  • Stroke
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Lou Gehrig’s disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis)
  • Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases

Physical damage to the peroneal nerve, such as from a car accident or sports injury, may also result in drop foot. 

Treatment options

The reasons for your drop foot may influence treatment. Typically, you’ll start with conservative measures, such as a brace or splint that holds your foot at a normal angle for walking. Assistive devices may be combined with physical therapy to maintain range of motion and flexibility in the heel, as well as to strengthen muscles in the ankle and knee to support a more normal walking gait. 

Stimulation of the peroneal nerve can sometimes improve the lifting function of the foot for some patients, depending on their condition. Electrodes send signals that help muscle contraction for lifting the feet. Innovative procedures that transfer nerve or tendon tissue from other places in your body can also help in some cases of drop foot. 

Generally, your prognosis is better the sooner treatment starts after the drop foot condition occurs. If you’ve had drop foot for years, foot and ankle fusion might be your only option beyond conservative treatment. 

Contact Oexeman Foot and Ankle to explore all of the options for your drop foot condition. You can reach the office by phone or by using the convenient online booking link on this page. Drop foot gait compensation can lead to other musculoskeletal problems, so book your consultation now.