Drop Foot is also known as Foot Drop. I tend to call it Drop Foot because that is the term that I first heard in relation to my foot so that song is stuck in my head forever! This is the definition from the Mayo Clinic:
Foot drop, sometimes called drop foot, is a general term for difficulty lifting the front part of the foot. If you have foot drop, you may drag the front of your foot on the ground when you walk.
Foot drop isn’t a disease. Rather, foot drop is a sign of an underlying neurological, muscular or anatomical problem.
Sometimes foot drop is temporary. In other cases, foot drop is permanent. If you have foot drop, you may need to wear a brace on your ankle and foot to hold your foot in a normal position.
Drop foot is caused by muscular or nerve problems like neuropathy, stroke, ALS, multiple sclerosis or muscular dystrophy to name a few. A lot of definitions say that it is caused by muscle weakness to your ankles, but it can affect anywhere between your knees and your toes. When you are unable to bend your ankles while walking, you tend to drag your feet or have what they call steppage gate when you lift your foot higher than normal to compensate for not being able to bend your ankles. Most of us have been to the doctors and they ask us to bend our foot or our toes – someone with drop foot has difficulty doing that. I can’t bend either my foot or my toes.
I thought that the best way to try and explain it was to show you. This is my best attempt at trying to film how I walk while on the treadmill. The first 20 seconds is just getting on the treadmill and getting plugged in – with my balance so bad, I don’t use the treadmill without the key being pinned to my clothing in case I fall.
For some people, as they become more fatigued, the drop foot becomes more pronounced. I know that is the case for me. When I go shopping, the longer I am in the store, the harder it is for me to walk and I notice the “high step” a lot more. Walking with drop foot takes more energy. That walk around the block is more like 10 blocks for someone with drop foot. Besides it just feeling like it was 10 blocks instead of 1, your body actually uses more energy.
There are several different things they use for drop foot. One of those is braces. Braces were first mentioned to me when I had the ulcer on the bottom of my foot. They were actually mentioned just prior to my foot becoming infected. The physical therapist wanted to use one that would pull my toes up and force the weight of my foot on my heel. She didn’t seem to understand that I had an ulcer on my heel and was attempting to “not” walk on my heel! Even worse, I brought it up with the podiatrist that I was seeing when I was first admitted to the hospital and he did not see a problem with that. He was also the owner of the same practice that felt the radiologist in the hospital was wrong and I did not have an infection in my bone. I guess I don’t need to tell you what I think of his opinion!
Although my wound is long healed now, I don’t want to use something that is going to force my weight onto my heel. I have concerns about the bone graft and I because I do get pain in my heel, I don’t want to do anything that has the slightest potential to do any harm to my foot. I saw a new neurologist this summer and she felt that a brace would do more harm than good. She also said that it could rub my skin and cause problems that way. She actually had me get up and walk down the hall so that she could watch me walk – it is very rare that a doctor does that, even when they know that you have problems.
The neurologist suggested that I get a pair of the high top sneakers to help support my ankles. Now that the weather is getting cooler, I am going to try that. I couldn’t see wearing those with shorts!