Foot drop refers to the condition in which one is unable to raise the front part of the feet. This causes difficulty in mobility such as walking around safely.
There are different reasons for this condition, which include orthopedic or neurological conditions.
It is usually caused when muscle tone is changed in the leg and foot and affects the coordination of both. It results in difficulty in raising the forefoot.
It is important to treat drop foot, otherwise, it can lead to abnormalities, long-term injuries to the leg and foot, and a high risk of falling or deformed posture. There are various devices in the market that assist people when they suffer from issues in mobility from foot drop.
The initial treatment for foot drop is using a foot drop brace, also known as Ankle Foot Orthosis (AFO brace).
Foot drop brace can help improve gait deviation and walking mobility for disorders. These are designed to reduce flexion while giving support to the front foot and the joint while moving.
However, there are elements that determine whether the foot drop brace or AFO is appropriate for a particular case.
The conventional device covers from the calf to the front foot. This traditional AFO is used for foot drop and is restricted to the ankle dorsiflexion movement while maintaining the foot hemiparetic in a constant position to enable swing.
Whereas, the ankle joint restriction damages the gait rhythm and causes high energy utilization while walking. Foot drop braces are hinge applied and are made to enable flexibility while the response is being loaded which affects the lower limb while decreasing the energy utilization of hemiparetic gait.
It is called Dynamic Ankle Foot Orthosis. A hinged AFO is suitable only if more severe spasticity is not present.
The dynamic ankle foot uses flexible and thin thermoplastic. It may give circumferential control of the rear and forefoot to maintain a neutral alignment because it closely fits the foot.
A “neurological” footplate, which consisted of a pad at the peroneal & calf location with dorsiflexing of the toes, was frequently incorporated into the earliest designs of DAFOs. Moreover, DAFOs may also be in the form of shoes for daily life activities such as outdoor activities.
There are different characteristics that one requires in their ankle foot orthoses brace. They differ according to conditions and preferences.
Before you purchase an AFO, ensure that it is tested and approved by experts. It should be easy to wear alongside your shoes and has an ankle support. An AFO also needs to protect the foot from dropping and ensure that it has balance and strong support.
AFO can be a temporary support solution instead of a permanent treatment. However, exercises are recommended for foot drop regularly that will aid in regaining the use of the foot and ankle.
As the exercise continues, it will eliminate the need for a foot drop brace, and one will be able to walk without AFO.
One or both feet may experience a mild to severe case of foot drop. Ankle foot orthoses are commonly used as a first-line treatment.
Patients with drop foot hemiplegia often benefit from using ankle foot orthoses to correct their gait deviation and return their walking patterns to normal.
Toe clearance in healthy people is mostly accomplished through functional lower limb shortening, which involves hip and knee flexion and ankle dorsiflexion.
In addition, when the ankle joint is impaired, the affected foot has less room for the toes to wiggle, which results in a knee and hip hike to make up for the ankle’s range of motion.
For those who suffer from foot drop conditions, this is a key contributor to the risk of falling.
Traditional ankle foot orthoses for foot drop work by preventing the hemiparetic foot from moving in all directions other than dorsiflexion. This limited ankle motion, however, throws off the gait cycle and forces the body to work harder to cover the same distance.
In order to address this problem, hinge-applied AFO braces were created to permit some ankle flexibility during the loading response on the affected lower limb, thereby somewhat lowering the energy cost of hemiparetic gait.
Meanwhile, DAFO is commonly used to describe Supra-Malleolar Orthoses that are individually molded from lightweight thermoplastic.
DAFO uses circumferential control of the rear and forefoot to keep the foot in a neutral position, made possible using flexible and thin thermoplastic.
A ‘neurological’ footplate, consisting of a pad at the peroneal & calf site and dorsiflexing the toes, was commonly incorporated into the earliest designs of DAFOs.
People with foot drop due to neurological abnormalities or nerve damage that have caused unusual gait may benefit from DAFO.
There are also some who want to improve their walking efficiency and get their gait back to a regular rhythm.
It’s important to make sure the orthosis…
Find the right fit of AFO brace for treating your foot drop. Find out what should be included in an AFO brace and why it might benefit you.
Also Read: Foot Drop Exercises: Get Back on Your Feet with Confidence.