Types of braces for foot drop

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Types of braces for foot drop
Foot drop affects how a person walks. (Alistair Berg/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Foot drop is a condition that does not allow the front of the foot to raise. This can be the result of paralysis or weakness of the muscles. People who have foot drop tend to bend their knees more to bring the foot up and keep it from scuffing on the ground. Foot drop can be a permanent problem or a temporary one; it depends on what is causing it. Some conditions that cause foot drop are spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, stroke and muscular dystrophy.

Treatments for foot drop depend on the severity or the cause of the condition. The most common way to treat foot drop is with shoe inserts and lightweight braces. Exercising also can help with gait by strengthening the muscles and maintaining joint muscles. There are several braces that may be used to treat foot drop. The right brace will be determined by an ankle and foot doctor upon evaluation.

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Short Leg

A short leg brace is a lightweight foot drop brace that easily fits into the shoes, making it easy for people to have control of their foot. This type of brace is great for drop foot or for people who have flat feet. It keeps the foot at a 90-degree angle to the leg, controlling inward rotation of the foot. The short leg fixed brace does not flex at the ankle joint. It also helps control inward rotation of the foot.

The downside to this brace is that it has a fixed hinge, which does not allow for plantar flexion or dorsiflexion. Because of this, it doesn't allow for a natural walk. This does not work well for those who are over six feet tall.

Energy Return

The energy return brace is made from carbon graphite materials. It has a natural flex built into the material, which helps with dorsiflexion. The energy return brace is more flexible than traditional models. It is very lightweight, and an absence of a heel section makes it more comfortable to wear. This brace has a rigid vertical aspect in the back of the brace for good lifting. The energy return brace is one of the most affordable braces for foot drop.

Solid Ankle

The solid ankle brace is one of the bulkier braces for foot drop. The positive side of this brace is that it offers a tremendous amount of control. This brace also is used on patients who have almost completely lost dorsiflexion strength and have an unstable knee. The solid ankle brace can be used in patients who are paraplegic and have experienced drop foot. Surgery is used to correct drop foot in paraplegics and this type of brace then is used to keep the foot a 90-degree angle. This keeps the foot from dropping again so the patient may be fitted for braces.

Posterior Leaf

The posterior leaf brace is mostly used on patients who have instability of the knee with foot drop. It will fit in most lace-up shoes. This foot drop brace can be custom trimmed and reshaped for more comfort. This brace isn't used as much anymore, because it has been replaced by newer varieties.

Dorsiflexion Assist

The dorsiflexion assist brace has a springlike hinge that raises the foot when the foot leaves the ground. It is one of the best braces for people with mild or moderate foot drop or an unstable foot, by creating a more natural walk. It also helps those who have a flat or unstable foot. The negative side to this type of brace is that it is not appropriate for people weighing more than 116kg or who are over 6 feet tall.

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