Physical Therapy Foot Drop Exercises to Improve Your Gait and Balance

Physical Therapy Foot Drop Exercises to Improve Your Gait and Balance

Foot drop exercises are the best treatment for foot drop.

Hands down, bar none.

Even if you can’t move your foot due to severe paralysis, foot drop exercise can still help.

We’ll start by explaining how passive exercise works, then dive straight into the physical therapy exercises for foot drop.

Start with Passive Foot Drop Exercises for Severe Weakness

If your foot drop is severe (i.e. there is zero movement in your foot), then you should start with passive exercise.

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

This differs from active exercise where you do not assist yourself and instead perform the entire foot drop exercise on your own.

Now that you know where to start, lets get into the exercises!

The Best Foot Drop Exercises to Get Back on Your Feet

Each of these foot drop exercises are guided by our physical therapist Liliana.

Her physical therapy exercises for foot drop will help you get back on your feet in no time.

1. Ankle Adduction/Abduction (Passive)

ankle adduction foot drop exercise

ankle abduction foot drop exercises

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)

foot drop paralysis exercise

ankle foot drop exercises

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 foot drop exercises

foot and toe exercises

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)

physical therapy exercises for foot drop

physical therapy foot drop exercises

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)

rehabilitation for foot drop

rehabilitation exercises for foot drop

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.

How to Get the Best Results from Your Foot Drop Exercises

Remember, if you struggle with severe foot drop, simply perform these exercises passively.

And to get the most benefit, be sure to emphasize repetition to help activate neuroplasticity, your brain’s built-in mechanism for building new neural pathways.

Each time you repeat your foot drop exercises, you strengthen new connections in your brain responsible for that movement.

The more you repeat, the better your brain gets at moving your foot – even if you just start out with passive exercises.

And in time, you can graduate to active exercise and recover from foot drop for good!