Managing foot drop can be complex. It is important to recognize that early identification of these
conditions, implementation of appropriate heel devices, and collaboration with Physical Therapy.
The Foot. One-quarter of all human bones are located in the feet. 26 bones. 33 joints. Over 100 tendons, muscles, and ligaments. That’s a lot of moving parts. And when you figure in the nerves that effect the foot, there’s just a lot going on with the lower extremity. And a lot that could go wrong. When the peripheral nerves in the legs are damaged or compressed, foot drop can occur. But what exactly is foot drop? It’s a condition causing weakness of the muscles that pull the foot towards the shin. But be aware, the Medical Condition of Foot Drop is often confused with the natural resting position of the foot – also called the Position of Foot Drop.
Medical Condition of Foot Drop
Specific muscles in the leg are responsible for moving the foot in an upward direction towards the head. When these muscles fail to receive the signal from the responsible nerve, they will no longer function, causing the foot to rest naturally in a downward direction. This happens even though the calf muscle or ankle joint has normal motion
The most common cause of this condition is the compression of the peroneal nerve, and the most vulnerable area of the nerve is located on the outer leg, just below the knee. People with the medical condition of foot drop often stumble while walking due to an inability to raise their foot high enough to clear the floor.
The Position of Foot Drop – The normal, relaxed position of the ankle is with the foot in a downward position, away from the body. This position is commonly referred to as foot drop and is most evident when lying in bed. When the foot/ankle is in this position for an extended period of time, the calf muscle and/or Achille’s tendon group can shorten and/or develop scar tissue. Permanent tightness can occur and affect ankle mobility.
Those with the medical condition of foot drop or who maintain the position of foot drop for an extended period of time are at the greatest risk for developing a plantarflexion contracture. A plantarflexion contracture can develop when the tightness in the calf muscles or tendon becomes permanent. This permanent tightening will not allow the ankle to return to the neutral (90°) position, even with attempts to stretch the ankle. This loss of ankle mobility will impair balance and stability in activities such as transfers, standing, or walking.
Managing foot drop can be complex. It is important to recognize that early identification of these conditions, implementation of appropriate heel devices, and collaboration with Physical Therapy can positively impact the quality of life for the patient and achieve improved outcomes by maximizing function. Learn more about heel protection solutions that effectively address foot drop.