5 Effective Foot Drop Exercises for Stroke Patients with Pictures

5 Effective Foot Drop Exercises for Stroke Patients with Pictures

The best treatment for foot drop after stroke is rehab exercise.

Hands down, bar none.

But before we dive into our best foot drop exercises, we would like to briefly mention the difference between passive and active exercise and how to maximize your results.

Then we will dive straight into the stroke exercises, which all feature Lilian, DPT.

Why You Should Start with Passive vs Active Exercises

Rehab exercise is the best way to recover from foot drop.

However, when you start foot drop exercises, it will likely be impossible to move your affected foot – and that’s okay! You can still regain movement in your foot using this method with just one adjustment:

Start with passive exercise.

Passive exercise means assisting your affected limb through a movement. For example, if your left leg is affected, then you can use your right side to help move your left leg.

This differs from active exercise. During active exercise you do not assist yourself. You perform the entire movement on your own.

This Is the Key to Effective Foot Drop Exercises

You can graduate from passive exercise to active exercise with repetitive practice. That’s why we recommend repeating all of the following exercises at least 10 times.

This is the essence of neuroplasticity, which is the #1 concept that every stroke survivor should know about.

Neuroplasticity works best when you repeat your exercises over and over. Because each time you repeat an exercise, you strengthen new connections in your brain responsible for movement.

The more you repeat, the better your brain becomes at the movement – even if you just start out with passive exercises. Passive exercises are the best way to reintroduce movement into the body.

Now, let’s get exercising!

1. Ankle Adduction/Abduction (Passive)

Cross your affected leg over your other leg at the knee.

Then, use your nonaffected hand to move your foot up and down (passive exercise). Focus on initiating all the movement from your ankle.

For extra challenge, perform without assistance (active exercise).

Repeat 10 times.

2. Ankle Dorsiflexion (Passive)

With your affected leg still crossed over your other leg, move into ankle dorsiflexion.

Use your unaffected hand to move your foot up towards your knee, then back down. Again, focus on imitating all movement from your ankle.

Repeat 10 times.

3. Assisted Toe Raises (Passive) 

Toe raises are the most difficult movement to perform with foot drop. If you have difficulty with this movement – that’s okay!

Even with passive exercise you can start reintroducing movement into that area.

To get into the starting position, place your unaffected food underneath your affected foot. Then, use your nonaffected foot to assist your affected foot up while keeping your heel on the ground. Then release back down.

Repeat 10 times.

Once you regain the ability to perform these without assistance, do active exercise for added challenge.

4. Heel Raises (Active)

This exercise is the opposite of toe raises. Although this may not feel like it’s helping with your foot drop, it will help train the surrounding muscles.

To perform heel raises, start with your feet flat on the ground. Then, point your toes and lift your heels off the ground. Repeat 10 times.

5. Ankle Eversion (Active)

For this exercise, place your affected foot flat on the ground.

Then, lift the outside edge of your foot and toes up, then relax back down.

Really focus on initiating the movement from your foot and ankle and avoid making the movement with your leg.

Repeat 10 times.

Keep reading about foot drop: The Upside & Hidden Danger of Using AFOs for Foot Drop After Stroke