E V E R Y D A Y SURVIVAL | Connecting You to Helpful Ideas
oot drop is one of the most
common walking challenges
caused by stroke. It affects
up to 20 percent of survivors.
A survivor with foot drop
can’t raise the front part of
the foot because of weakness
or paralysis of the muscle(s)
that normally lift the foot. Depending on the
cause and extent of the muscle weakness, foot
drop can be temporary or permanent.
A person with foot drop has difficulty
“clearing” the foot while walking. He or she
will often drag or scuff the foot or toes along the
ground when moving the affected leg forward.
Foot drop can also result in poor positioning
and unsteadiness of the ankle and knee while
standing on the affected leg. Balance problems
are common, such as losing one’s balance on
uneven surfaces. People commonly compensate
by adjusting the way they walk.
“Steppage gait” is a survivor bending his or
her hip and knee excessively to lift the foot higher
than usual to avoid scuffing the foot or toe.
“Circumduction gait” occurs when the leg
remains straight and the survivor swings the leg
to the side in a semicircle in order to move the
affected leg forward.
What it is and how it is treated
Foot drop among stroke
survivors is usually caused by
paralysis of the muscles controlled
by the deep and superficial branches
of the peroneal nerve. This prevents
the survivor from raising his or her foot.
The foot “drops”
gait and balance
By Jody Feld, PT, DPT, NCS
Physical Therapist — Duke University Health System;
Assistant Professor — Doctor of Physical Therapy
Division, Department of Family and Community
Medicine, Duke University School of Medicine