Foot drop is a condition in which normal dorsiflexion, the bending of the ankle and toes upwards, is not possible, leading to a characteristic labored gait called steppage gait. It is treated by addressing the underlying condition. Because this problem can result from a variety of conditions, including disorders of the nervous or muscular system, injury, and pharmaceutical side effects, any of a variety of treatments may be indicated.
If foot drop is the result of injury to the nervous system, such as a slipped disc impinging on the nerve leading to the foot, correcting the injury through surgery will relieve the problem. If it results from injury to the dosiflexors, the muscles responsible for lifting the foot, can also be repaired through surgery.
Tendon transfer surgery is often helpful in correcting the condition as well. Some medications, notably the chemotherapy drug Vincristine, carry the risk of peripheral neuropathy as a side effect, leading to conditions including foot drop. In such cases, discontinuing or lowering the dosage of the drug may be necessary.
Other times, however, foot drop is the symptom of an untreatable condition. Some illnesses associated with it are Lou Gehrig's disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), multiple sclerosis (MS), Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, and Duchenne muscular dystrophy. A patient suffering from one of these conditions must typically use a combination of orthotics and exercise to address the foot problem.
Foot drop sufferers are usually fitted with an ankle foot orthosis (AFO), which provide foot and ankle support. The orthosis may be installed in shoes or worn separately. A relatively new treatment for foot drop involves using electricity to stimulate the peroneal nerve, which is responsible for lifting the foot while walking. This treatment is commonly used in conjunction with an AFO. Physical therapy can also help strengthen a patient's dorsiflexors and improve his or her gait.