Eliminated the Heel dragging symptom

I believe I have stumbled across (figuratively speaking) a way to suppress the most troubling PD symptom that I have: the dragging of my left heel when I walk. Over the past year I have been finding that walking any distance was irritating because, unless I consciously focused on the mantra "heel, toe... heel, toe) what would happen when I walked was a constant "skuffing" of my left heel on the ground. I didn't appreciate having to "focus" on walking from A to B instead of going on "automatic pilot" like regular people do.

My wife had hip surgery and while hiking 3-5 miles a day with her (for her recovery), I noticed that I was walking with no "skuffing" what-so-ever. Initially I thought that it was the "concentration" of stepping around stones and over roots.. that focused my attention... that was focusing my mind unconsciously. That was not the case.

Actually it turns out that its the use of a "walking stick" extended out and planted on the surface at the same time that I extend and step forward with my left leg is what is doing it. I have come to believe that there is some mechanism in my brain that compensates for what ever PD has fouled up. It has nothing to do with weight bearing. It is so comforting to walk normally on "automatic pilot" that I now carry a walking stick with me whenever I go anywhere where much walking is involved.

I would be keenly interested in finding out if any other people have made a similar discovery. Perhaps you should "give it a go", as the Aussies say, if you have a similar symptom and and associated frustrations.


15 Replies

  • Dear Frank;

    I have aquired 3 canes. One is a staff made of wood, another one is a crooked looking cane made out of treet-roots, the third is a regular cane. I love them all. I have decorated them, and they look fun.

    I feel a lot safer when I use them.

    I am glad you have found safety in yours too.

    Enjoy your day!

    Hugs and love from Eva


  • I haven't gotten a Cane yet.... and I don't need one for support or security... yet. However I watch HOUSE on TV (series about an outspoken MD with a Cane) and I've come to admire him for his perspective (and commentary to patients) to such an extent that I can barely wait to emulate his style of locomotion!

    Besides the idea of waving it around and becoming a "greater force to contend with" may have its appeal. Pounding it on the floor to show impatience, etc. (Just kidding).


  • Hi Frank;

    I also LOVE Dr. House!! I have watched the show on Netflix and wish there were more episodes!! He sure is character!!

    I like the way he uses his cane too.

    If you walk with dignity,using a cane can give you a sense of authority! Especially my staff.

    I decorate my canes. That makes them more fun.

    Hugs and love from Eva


  • Very interesting and leaves me wondering if this is actually to do with arm swing. It is another idea I came across recently on a video.

    Of course using a decorated stick is very appealing as well!

  • hi,FMundo,

    i assume you hold your cane in your opposite (right )hand. if you do, so i think it is arm swing issue. i can easier swing my arms correctly if i hold something, like light weight dumbbells in my arms while walking. i time i even tried to hold grocery bags with dumbbells in it and swing the bags!

  • You are correct, the hiking pole is in my right hand. I'll try arm swinging without the pole and see if that also works. However I will say that both arms swing naturally when I walk (at the moment).

  • What about those walking sticks like ski poles some people use? What are they called? I'd like to hear more about them.

  • They are called hiking sticks, hiking poles or hiking staffs. What distinguishes them is you grasp them in your fist with the pole vertical not "on top of a curved cane for example. You can get them online from REI (and no doubt other sporting good stores). They are adjustable in height. They cost thirty to thirty-five dollars. My hunch is that if I had a cane that would work just as well, but it would be overkill as I'm not putting weight on it, and a can is less sporty. I am convinced it is some internal physiological / nervous system function that does not require "thinking" that is making a correction or compensation in correcting my walking.

  • The problem might be weakness in the opposite hip. It could be allowing your pelvis to drop when you lift your leg cussing the heel to drag when your leg swings forward. See a Physical Therapist.

  • Hi Frank. You are talking about my pet subject - walking! I found that my left foot was not propelling me forwards, when I walked on automatic control, but when I consciously pushed forward with my left foot my right foot did nt drag on the ground.

    You hit the nail on the head. When I have to consciously control my walking, because of the terrain, I don't have this problem, but when I walk on the street without thinking about it, I drag my right foot.

    I watched a video this past week on Nordic Walking Poles. It confirmed what you have said in your post. Maybe we should all walk around with Nordic Walking Poles!


  • FMundo this is a video on walking with a number of ideas. Sheryl who features in it is a physio who has dedicated herself to helping people with PD. And has other videos.

  • Hikoi,

    What you've sent is of keen interest. This video is really something. I believe ANYONE with Gait problems would benefit from watching it. You've done a real service by passing this along. I shall watch it again.

    I may revise my thinking about why Hiking Poles work based on what Sherryl has to say. And I'm going to do further experimentation. I've used a single pole, waist high with success, but there are interesting approaches to addressing gait problems in this video.


  • So pleased it was helpful.

  • I have used Leki walking poles for 3 years. Love them. Gives the arms a little action also.

    I also us a single Leki walking stick, like a cane but without the handle. Gives me a better sense of balance. I would us this for casual walking and my poles for serious walking in the park.

    In my travels I have noticed that folks from Europe use the items regularly.

  • I believe "you've got it!" I love to hear from people who are adapting and just "getting on with it."

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