Do you have foot drop? do you want to find solutions to help improve mobility?
Are you finding it difficult to lift your foot when you walk? Are you catching your toes more? Having to lift your hip or swing your leg out to ensure you don’t catch your toes? Are you falling because you catch your toes when you walk? Then you might be struggling with foot drop.
What is Foot drop?
Foot drop (also known as drop foot or dropped foot) affects millions of people worldwide. It can affect your quality of life, your self-confidence and increase your risk of falls and injury. Foot drop is caused by a muscle weakness or a disruption in the nerves between the foot and the brain which makes it difficult to lift the front part of your foot and toes.
Foot Drop Causes?
Foot drop can be caused by both neurological and musculoskeletal conditions, with the most common cause being damage to the peroneal nerve. The peroneal nerve is a branch of the sciatic nerve which extends from the lower region of the spine and wraps down around the back of the knee and down the front of the shin. It is a nerve which lies very close to the surface of the skin which can leave it open to injury and damage. Other common causes of foot drop can include; muscle or nerve disorders, such as polio or Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, and brain and spinal cord disorders, such as stoke or multiple sclerosis. Therefore, foot drop is considered a symptom of another problem and not a condition itself.
You may be altering the way you walk in order to accommodate for a dropped foot and ensure the toe clears the ground when you walk. The most common alteration method is lifting your foot higher, also known as high steppage gait; this involves excessive flexion (bending) of the knee and hip or swinging your leg out and round to clear the toes, this is known as circumduction gait. However, this type of walking requires much more energy and effort and in time can lead to secondary complications such as back and hip pain, as well as a shortening of the large muscle at the calf (Gastrocnemius), and increased self-consciousness about the way you walk.
Functional Electrical Stimulation, known as FES, such as the Bioness System. These devices provide small electrical impulses directly to the nerves in the affected area. This stimulation causes the nerves to shorten (contract) the affected muscles, resulting in the front part of the foot lifting up. This requires small electrodes to be placed on the skin to provide the electrical stimulation. An examination and trial with a qualified clinician is needed to assess suitability for FES.
The easiest way to prevent foot drop is to wear a brace or support, known as an orthosis. These supports are designed to hold your foot up whilst walking and preventing the front part of the foot from dropping down. Anyone struggling with foot drop can benefit from wearing a foot drop splint.
There are lots of different device available. A more solid design also known as an Ankle Foot Orthosis (AFO) extends down the calf under the foot and is worn inside your shoe, this design is used in more severe cases of foot drop. Such as the WalkOn or SpryStep.
Finding your support or brace?
Before selecting your foot drop splint here are a few questions you should ask yourself?
1) What is the cause of the foot drop?
2) What is the severity of your foot drop and is there any ankle stability? If ankle stability is present a more supportive device may be needed.
3) Are you falling frequently?
4) Do you have variable swelling in your foot and ankle? This may limit your choice of splint as a more solid design may be uncomfortable with swelling.
5) Do you want to wear your support inside or outside your shoes? It is important to remember that wearing a support may limit your choice of footwear.
6) How much to do want to spend? Sometimes the most expensive support might not be best for your needs, and sometimes you might need to spend more to get the level of support required.
Choosing the right device for you requires clinical guidance and support, at total body orthotics we are committed to making the process as simple as possible and have specialist clinicians available to aid you in your choice of drop foot splint.