What is Drop Foot?

Definition

Drop Foot, also referred to as Foot Drop, is a general term for difficulty lifting the front part of the foot. The condition is caused by weakness or paralysis of the muscles that help the body clear the foot during the swing phase of gait and are involved in lifting the front part of the foot. If you have drop foot, the front of your foot might drag on the ground when you walk.

Drop Foot isn't a disease, but rather a sign of an underlying neurological, muscular or anatomical problem. Sometimes foot drop is temporary, but it can be permanent.

This condition can range in severity for each individual and is commonly treated by wearing an Ankle Foot Orthosis brace on your ankle and foot to hold your foot in a normal position, also known as an AFO.

Causes

Some causes of foot drop might include:
Brain and spinal cord disorders

Disorders that impact the spinal cord or brain, such as stroke, ALS, or multiple sclerosis.

Nerve injury

Compression of the peroneal nerve, a nerve in your leg that controls the muscles responsible for lifting the foot.

Muscle or nerve disorders

An inherited disease or disorder that leads to progressive muscle weakness such as muscular dystrophy, polio or Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.

Key Terms

Before we dive into the details, here are some key terms to be familiar with:

Abduction

The movement of a limb or other part away from the midline of the body, or from another part.

Adduction

The movement of a limb or other part toward the midline of the body or toward another part.

Dorsiflexion

The action of raising the foot upwards towards the shin.

Eversion

The tilting of your foot away from the midline of your body during movement.

Gait

A person's manner of walking.

Inversion

The tilting of your foot towards  the midline of your body during movement.

Lateral

Of, at, toward, or from the side or sides.

Medial

Situated near the median plane of the body or midline.

Plantarflexion

Movement in which the top of your foot points away from your leg.

Pronation

When you walk, your weight tends to be more on the inside of your foot.

Supination

When you walk, your weight tends to be more on the outside of your foot.

Valgus

Turned outward away from the midline of the body to an abnormal degree.

Varus

Turned inward toward the midline of the body to an abnormal degree.

It all starts at the muscles.

Given that drop foot as a condition results in impairments of muscles around the foot and ankle, it’s important to understand the purpose of these muscles. They act as protectors for nearby ligaments, preventing prolonged stretch or overstretch by their action. Their connection points to the body are critical to determine how they move the foot and ankle, not only as it relates to dorsi/plantar flexion but equally as important as eversion and inversion.

The principles of Drop Foot include loss of ankle dorsiflexion and poor midfoot and hindfoot control. People with drop foot experience limited motor control resulting in decreased gait speed and increased gait asymmetry. Weakness of the plantarflexors can lead to decreased stance phase stability and decreased push-off. If not actively treated this impairment can cause more lasting implications like compensations at other joints, decreased walking speed, falls, long term foot deformity and overall, decreased quality of life.

Given that there are varying degrees of drop foot, as well as different user needs based on lifestyle, there are a lot of different ankle foot orthosis (AFO) solutions available. At Elevate we’ve identified two AFO solutions using carbon-fiber: our posterior AFO FreeFlow and our anterior AFO Glide.

Our products

Small rendering image of FreeFlow

AFO1 FreeFlow

Provides support for dorsiflexors and mild hyperextension control in a comfortable lateral posterior strut design.

Small rendering image of Glide

AFO1 Glide

Provides support for dorsiflexor weakness and mild to moderate gastrocnemius and quadriceps weakness while minimizing tibial pressure.

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