Foot drop, sometimes called “drop foot,” is the inability to lift the front part of the foot causing the toes to drag while walking. People with foot drop may compensate by lifting their knee higher than normal or swinging their leg in an arc. Foot drop stems from weakness or paralysis of the muscles that lift the foot and may involve one or both feet.
What causes foot drop?
As a symptom of an underlying problem, foot drop is not a disease and can be temporary or permanent. Causes of foot drop include nerve injury in the leg or back, peripheral neuropathies and brain or spinal disorders.
Nerve Injury: Commonly, foot drop is caused by an injury to the peroneal nerve or the lumbar nerve roots. Located close to the skin surface, the peroneal nerve wraps from the back of the knee to the front of the shin. The lumbar nerve roots in the back also supply the muscles that lift the foot.
- Peroneal nerve injury:
- Pressure injury – prolonged sitting in a cross-legged or squatting position
- Knee injury
- Hip or knee replacement surgery
- Lumbar nerve root injury:
- Ruptured discs
- Back surgery
- Inflammation of the nerve roots
Peripheral Neuropathies: Diabetes, Charcot Marie Tooth hereditary neuropathies, and other less frequent neuropathies can cause foot drop in both feet.
Brain and Spinal Disorders: Stroke, MS and Cerebral Palsy can damage the central nerves that control foot lift muscles with resulting foot drop along with other leg muscle weakness.