Exercises for Foot Drop
Feb 01, 2024
Exercises for Foot Drop
If you have foot drop, you may not be able to raise the front part of your foot. When you walk, your toes may drag, or you may adopt an unnatural gait to try and compensate.
If you are suffering from foot drop, performing safe and suitable exercises can help. This post will introduce you to some of the best exercises for foot drop. First, let’s talk a little bit more about what causes foot drop, and why PT and exercise are beneficial for those with this condition.
Common Causes of Foot Drop
The most common cause of foot drop is injury to the peroneal nerve, according to Penn Medicine. You may damage this nerve if you injure your knee. It can also be injured by over-wearing high boots, having a cast that is too tight on the lower leg, or time in a coma.
Finally, habits such as squatting, kneeling or sitting for too much time in one position could produce foot drop.
If you have an underlying condition, you will need to treat it. If bad habits are contributing to foot drop, you will need to change those habits.
Why Physical Therapy is Crucial
To restore a normal foot position and gait, it is necessary to increase the strength and flexibility of your muscles. As this paper published by StatPearls explains, performing physical therapy exercises for foot drop is a gentle but effective way to do that. Your physical therapist can also use electrical stimulation to help improve your condition.
Best Exercises for Foot Drop
Exercises for foot drop fall into a few different categories: strengthening exercises, stretching exercises, and exercises to improve balance and coordination.
Gentle stretching exercises are a good starting point for improving your foot drop.
- Stand in front of a wall. Place one leg back behind the other in a “lunge” position.
- Rest your palms on the wall.
- Lean toward the wall. This will stretch your back calf.
- Switch your legs around and repeat to stretch the other calf.
Plantar Fascia Stretch
- Sit on a chair with one foot on the floor. Rest the other foot on top of your knee.
- Gently pull your toes backward to stretch the plantar fascia.
If you want, you can massage the bottom of your foot when you are performing this stretch.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent in a neutral position.
- Slowly and gently rotate your hips, lowering both knees toward the floor on one side of your body.
- Bring your knees and hips back to a neutral position.
- Do the same thing again, but rotate to the opposite side.
Note that your knees should not be close together when performing this exercise. There should be some space between them.
Now that you know how to do some basic stretches for foot drop, let’s go over some strengthening exercises you can try.
- Stand in front of a step.
- Raise one foot and place the toes on top of the step.
- Bring the foot back down to the floor.
- Raise the other foot and touch the toes to the step.
- Lower that foot back to the floor.
Repeat as many reps as you want.
- Sit on the edge of a chair in an upright position, with your weight slightly forward and your feet flat on the floor.
- Keeping your heels on the floor, raise your toes as much as you can.
- Lower your toes back down.
- Perform as many reps as you want.
Tip: Do not use your upper body to help you lift your toes!
- Sit in a chair in an upright position. Place your feet flat on the floor.
- Place a small ball between your feet, holding it off the floor by keeping your feet together.
- Lift your feet off the floor, bringing the ball with them. You can do this by straightening your knees to extend your legs.
- Lower your feet and the ball back to the floor. Do additional reps as desired.
Ankle Adduction and Abduction
- Sit on the floor with one leg straight and flat in front of you. Pull the other ankle in toward your torso.
- Loop a resistance band around the foot that is straight in front of you.
- Rotate your toe outward toward the floor, keeping your heel on the floor. Rotate it back.
- Do a number of reps you are comfortable with.
- Rotate your toe inward toward the floor, keeping your heel in contact with the floor. Rotate it back. Repeat this as many times as you wish as well.
- Stand with a chair in front of you and both feet flat on the ground. Grasp the back of the chair with both hands.
- Rise up on your toes, lifting your heels off the floor.
- Lower your heels back down.
- Repeat as many times as needed.
Balance and Coordination Exercises
Now that you have done some strengthening exercises for foot drop, let’s take a look at a couple of exercises that can boost your balance and coordination. We suggest you do these exercises next to a wall. That way, you can grab it for balance if needed.
In this exercise, you walk in a straight line with your arms held out to either side for balance (one hand can rest on a wall or railing if you wish).
Each time you place one foot in front of the other, the heel of that foot needs to be right against the toe of the other foot.
Standing on One Leg
- Stand with both feet on the floor.
- Lift one of your feet up off the floor, and hold for 10 seconds.
- Put your foot back down.
- Switch sides, doing the same with your other foot.
- Repeat as many times as you want.
Other At-Home Treatments for Foot Drop
In addition to performing exercises for foot drop, you may be told to wear a brace or splint. In addition, you can take oral medications and/or apply topical analgesics to reduce your pain as you heal.
If the condition producing your foot drop causes numbness, you might be prone to scrapes and ulcers. Should that be the case, your doctor may recommend measures to help you protect your skin.
What Does Recovery Look Like?
As your foot drop begins to improve, you may notice your balance and coordination getting better. Walking may feel easier, and your gait could begin to look and feel more natural. When your mobility increases, you are able to live more independently with less effort.
Can Better Shoes Help You?
If you are doing the heel-to-toe walk outside, or if you are just taking a regular walk, you need to choose footwear that is safe and supportive for people with foot drop.
The patented variable friction technology in these shoes makes it possible to “glide” over uneven surfaces smoothly.
You can maintain a more natural gait while staying safer and more comfortable as you walk. As an added plus, these shoes are very stylish.
To finish up this post on the best exercises for foot drop, let’s answer a few frequently asked questions.
Can foot drop be corrected with exercises?
Exercise can help you to correct foot drop by improving strength, flexibility, balance and coordination. In some cases, you may be able to recover from foot drop fully.
Can you reverse foot drop?
In some cases, it is possible to reverse and even cure foot drop. In others, it may not be. Foot drop is more likely to be reversible if it is not being caused by an underlying chronic health condition.
How long does it take to correct foot drop?
How long it takes to correct foot drop depends on what is causing your foot drop as well as the steps you are taking to treat it.
According to this research, the common timeframe for correcting foot drop is between 3 and 12 months.
What is the best position for foot drop?
To whatever extent is possible, you want your foot to be in a normal position. Wearing a brace or splint may help you to maintain that position.