Sometimes, experts don't have to see you walk -- they can hear you coming down the hall. A condition called "foot slap" or "drop foot" is when your foot literally slaps the ground as you walk. "It's caused by muscle weakness of the anterior tibial muscle or the peroneal muscles," says podiatrist Dr. Jane E. Andersen, who has a practice in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and is a past president of the American Association for Women Podiatrists.
A healthy stride starts with a heel strike; then the foot slowly lowers to the ground; then it lifts from the toe and slings back to your heel. But with drop foot, muscle control is lost and the foot can't return slowly to the ground. Instead, it "slaps" the ground. "This could be a sign of a stroke or other neuromuscular event, or of compression of a nerve," Andersen says. A ruptured disk in the back is a common cause, since it can compress a nerve that travels down the leg. A rare cause of drop foot is simply crossing your legs, Andersen says, if the common peroneal nerve is disrupted from the pressure.