Doctor's Responses Archive

Viewer Question:

Any thoughts on Dropped Foot condition and help for the problem?

Doctor's Response:

When the motor nerve (anterior tibial nerve) that innervates the muscles that pull the foot toward the knee is injured or diseased, the result is complete weakness of those muscles (paralysis of the pretibial and peroneal muscles). The weakness causes the foot to essentially be limp and the weak foot involuntarily flops away from the body to cause what is referred to as a "foot drop." Sometimes this flopping of the foot causes excessive wear of the front and side of the sole of the shoe.

The first line treatment for foot drop typically involves fashioning a support brace to keep the ankle at ninety degrees so that the foot cannot drop toward the ground. This positioning makes walking easier and can prevent actually tripping at the toes from the dropped foot.

Ultimately, whether or not there is recovery from a dropped foot depends on the underlying cause and severity of the nerve damage. Dropped foot can involve one or both feet depending on the underlying condition. It occurs in diseases that affect the nerves in the legs or spinal cord. It can also be seen as a feature of some forms of muscular dystrophy. By far the most common cause of dropped foot is direct compression of the anterior tibial nerve. The nerve can be compressed by outside force of injury or external pressure at the point where it passes over the outer portion of the leg just below the side of the knee.

Thank you for your question.

Medical Author: William Shiel, MD, FACP, FACR


Last Editorial Review: 5/12/2003