Inherited peripheral neuropathies comprise a wide variety of diseases primarily affecting the peripheral nervous system. The best-known peripheral neuropathy is Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) described in 1886 by J.-M. Charcot, P. Marie and H.H. Tooth. In 1980, A.E. Harding and P.K. Thomas showed that in a large group of individuals with CMT, several only had motor abnormalities on clinical and electrophysiological examination, whereas sensory abnormalities were absent. This exclusively motor variant of CMT was designated as spinal CMT or hereditary distal spinal muscular atrophy, and included in the distal hereditary motor neuropathies (distal HMN). The distal HMN are clinically and genetically heterogeneous and are subdivided according to the mode of inheritance, age at onset and clinical evolution. Since the introduction of positional cloning, 12 chromosomal loci and seven disease-causing genes have been identified for autosomal dominant and recessive distal HMN. Most of the genes involved have housekeeping functions, as in RNA processing, translation synthesis, glycosylation, stress response, apoptosis, but also axonal trafficking and editing. Functional characterization of the mutations will help to unravel the cellular processes that underlie the specificity of motor neuropathies leading to neurogenic muscular atrophy of distal limb muscles. Here we review the recent progress of the molecular genetics of distal HMN and discuss the genes implicated.