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Foot and Ankle 101: Your Guide to Foot and Ankle Anatomy

May 25, 2022

Foot and Ankle 101: Your Guide to Foot and Ankle Anatomy

 

We use our feet every day to accomplish tasks and yet it’s one of the most neglected parts of the human body. That’s kinda odd because, without your feet, you wouldn’t be able to walk around and do important tasks around the house or at work.

It’s time for us to show our feet some TLC because studies show that a whopping 75% of Americans will experience foot problems at one point in their lives. That’s a huge percentage considering how important your feet are.

One way of showing them some TLC is by familiarizing yourself with its different parts and functions. By writing this article, we hope to help you have a better understanding of your feet and how to take care of them. 

So what are you waiting for? Let’s step right to it!  

Why Is It Important to Know the Anatomy of the Foot and Ankle?

It’s important to have an understanding of the anatomy of the foot and ankle because it’ll help you manage any pain you may be experiencing. It will also help you prevent injuries and help you treat them should they occur. 

You don’t need a Ph.D. in Foot 101, but having a basic understanding of it will go a long way. 

With that being said, let’s jump into the anatomy of the feet. 

What Are the Parts of the Foot and Ankle?

This is where it will get a little technical but don’t worry because we’re gonna break it down into bite-sized pieces. 

First, your foot and ankle have 28 bones, 33 joints, 112 ligaments, and over 30 muscles in it.

Now let’s take a look at each part of the foot and ankle, starting with the lower leg.

Bones of the lower leg

I think you’d agree that our legs are important. Maybe a little too important for Michael Flatley, star of Riverdance, who had his legs insured in 1999 for $40 million! 

I bet his insurance company doesn’t tell him to“break a leg!” before every performance! 

While you might not consider insuring your legs for millions, I’m sure you value them enough to want to know what makes up each part.

So, for starters, you need to know that the lower leg is the area from your knee to your ankles and it consists of two bones – the tibia and fibula. 

Both of these bones connect downward to the ankle joint, the area where we will be focusing our time on. 

We’ll talk more about the ankle joint later in this article but for now, let’s move on to the regions that make up your foot.

Regions of the foot

Your foot has three regions: the hindfoot, midfoot, and forefoot. 

Different bones make up each region of the foot. Together, the hindfoot and midfoot have seven bones. These bones are also known astarsal bones or in simple words, foot bones. 

You’re off to a good start! 

As a reward, let’s go and take a mental break with a fun fact about your feet.

Did you know that nearly a quarter of all bones in our bodies are in our feet? 

That’s a lot of bones! 

Keep your eyes peeled for more fun facts as you read through the article. 

But for now, let’s take a look at each region of the foot separately. 

Bones of the hindfoot

Your hindfoot has two bones —the talus and calcaneus – that make up the back of the foot. These bones, along with the lower leg, make up your ankle and are responsible for foot movement. They're also important for absorbing your weight when you stand up.    

Let’s take a closer look at the bones of the hindfoot.

Talus - This is the bone on top of the foot and is also called the ankle bone. The talus makes up the lower part of the ankle joint by connecting to the tibia and fibula.

      Calcaneus -This is also known as the heel bone and the largest bone in the foot.

      Those are all the bones that make up your ankle. 

      I told you it was easy.

      But we’re not done yet, we still have to learn about the other regions of the foot.

      Bones of the midfoot

      Your midfoot has five bones: the navicular, cuboid, and medial, middle, and lateral cuneiforms. These bones allow your feet to be mobile and stable when walking, running, or keeping your balance when standing. And they also make for a good tongue twister. Try saying those five times really fast! 

      For you to get a better understanding, let’s take a closer look at each of the bones in this region. 

      Cuboid - A square-shaped bone that connects the foot to the ankle, the cuboid is found on the outer side of the foot and forms a joint with the calcaneus.
        Navicular - A boat-shaped bone that connects the talus to the cuneiform bones. 

          Cuneiforms - The three cuneiform bones in the foot are: the medial, middle, and lateral cuneiforms. These bones provide stability and support to the foot. Don’t you love how the word cuneiform just rolls on your tongue?

            It’s amazing how the feet are made up of many bones that allow you to walk and keep your balance. 

            With that said, it’s time for another fun fact! 

            Did you know that your two feet have 250,000 sweat glands that are capable of producing half a pint of sweat in a single day?

            Imagine how many socks it would take to absorb all that sweat! 

            Bones of the forefoot

            Now we head to the part of the feet that arguably gets the most attention – the toes. 

            You know, that part of the foot where you decide what color of pedicure you want.

            This area is the forefoot and it's an important part of your feet because they’re responsible for helping you push your feet off the ground when walking. 

            The forefoot is made up of bones called the metatarsals, phalanges, and sesamoid bones. 

            Let’s take a closer look at each of these bones. 

            Metatarsals - Each foot contains five long bones called metatarsals that connect the foot bones (the tarsal bones, remember?) to the toe bones. 

              Phalanges - These are the fourteen bones that make up your toes. Each of your toes consists of three phalanges. The exception to this is the big toe, which only has two phalanges. 
                Sesamoid bones - These are two small pea-shaped bones within a tendon that’s found right under the big toe. These bones provide a surface for the tendons so that they can easily move through them. 

                  You’ve made it through the regions of the feet! 

                  Now it’s time to learn about the joints. Your feet are very complex because they’re packed with many small joints that make your feet functional.

                  Joints of the foot

                  The joints form when two or more bones meet together. Think of them like Legos, but more sophisticated. 

                  The joints help make the foot mobile and stable which helps your balance when walking or running.  

                  Because there are joints in the feet that aren’t as important to know, we’ll leave them out and talk about the main joints instead. 

                  Talocrural joint - The talocrural joint is also known as your ankle joint. This joint is formed between the bones of the lower leg, the tibia and fibula, and the talus. I hope you remember those bones!
                    Subtalar joint - This joint is formed between the talus and the calcaneus.
                      Tarsometatarsal joint - These are formed between the tarsal bones and the metatarsal bones. 
                        Metatarsophalangeal joint (MCP) - the joint at the base of your toes.
                          Proximal interphalangeal joint (PIP) - the joint in the middle of your toes.
                            Distal phalangeal joint (DP) - the joint at the tip of your toes. 

                              While they’re all important, you don’t need to stress yourself out memorizing all these joints. 

                              What a relief! 

                              Ligaments of the foot

                              Let’s move on to the ligaments of the foot. 

                              The ligaments are responsible for connecting bones to other bones. Think of them like sticky tape connecting one bone to another. 

                              Because the bones in the foot move constantly, the ligaments are prone to get injured. 

                              A common injury that happens to ligaments is called sprains. Ankle sprains happen when the ligaments are either stretched too much or torn from the bone that they attach to.

                              This is also known as a twisted ankle. Ouch! It sounds painful already. 

                              If there’s a kind of foot injury that you’ll most likely deal with in your life, it would be ligament injuries due to how common they are. So we recommend our covered ice packs for your injury if it happens to you.   

                              Here’s a closer look at the ligaments in the foot:

                              Anterior Talofibular Ligament - This ligament is the most common culprit when you sprain or twist your ankle. 
                                Calcaneofibular Ligament - The calcaneofibular ligament is also on the outer side of the ankle. Thankfully, injuries to this ligament aren’t as common. Phew!

                                  This is a simple video that shows these ligaments in action. Notice the movement of the ankle when it gets injured.

                                   

                                   

                                  Posterior Talofibular Ligament - The posterior talofibular ligament runs from the back lower area of the fibula and into the outer back area of the calcaneus.

                                    Deltoid Ligament - The deltoid ligament is a strong fan-shaped band of tissue located at the inner part of the ankle. This ligament is the strongest and least injured ligament in the ankle. You know it’s a bad injury when this ligament gets injured.
                                      Spring Ligament - The spring ligament originates from a bony part of the calcaneus called the sustentaculum tali. This area is found in the inner part of the hindfoot. The spring ligament is responsible for cradling and supporting the heel. 

                                        And that’s it for the bones and ligaments of the foot.

                                        It goes without saying that our bones are important because they serve as the foundation of our bodies. 

                                        Without bones, we’d all be like jello crawling on the floor to get to work. 

                                        Having said that though, your bones and ligaments can only take you so far. We need something that helps our bones and body parts move. 

                                        That’s where our muscles come swooping in to save the day.

                                        But before we dive into the muscles of the foot, it’s time for another fun feet fact! 

                                        Did you know that the average person walks 110,000 miles in their lifetime?

                                        That mileage would probably rival that of your dad’s beat up chevy that he hides in the backyard. 

                                        Muscles of the foot

                                        It’s time for the best part – the muscles of the foot.

                                        The muscles of the foot can be classified into two groups: extrinsic and intrinsic muscles. 

                                        To put it simply, extrinsic means they come from outside of the foot while intrinsic means that they come from the inside of the foot. 

                                        Extrinsic muscles

                                        Let’s start with the extrinsic muscles. These muscles are grouped into four compartments namely the superficial posterior, deep posterior, anterior, and lateral compartments. 

                                        Let’s take a closer look at these compartments. 

                                        Superficial posterior compartmentThe muscles in this compartment are responsible for pressing your foot down as if you were pushing the gas pedal of your car. This motion is called plantarflexion. There are two large muscles located here – the gastrocnemius and the soleus. They run along the leg and connect to your heel bone.

                                        In other words, these are the muscles that are left for dead during leg day. Never skip leg day. Never.

                                        Deep posterior compartment- These muscles, like the superficial posterior compartment, are found at the back of the leg, but are deeper in location compared to their superficial counterpart. The three muscles in this compartment are the flexor hallucis longus, the flexor digitorum longus, and the tibialis posterior. These muscles pass through the ankle joint and connect to the bones of the foot. 

                                          Anterior compartmentThe muscles in this compartment move your ankle by pointing your toes up as if you were walking on your heels. This motion is called dorsiflexion.The muscles in this compartment include the tibialis anterior, the extensor hallucis longus, the extensor digitorum brevis, and the peroneus tertius. 

                                            Lateral compartment - The lateral compartment includes the peroneus longus and peroneus brevis. These muscles both plantarflexes and brings the foot outward. 

                                              That’s it for the extrinsic muscles. That tells us that it’s time for another fun fact!

                                              Did you know that your feet may be the most ticklish part of your body? That’s because you have over 8,000 nerves in your feet! 

                                              Talking about feet, let’s move on to the intrinsic muscles of the foot.

                                              Intrinsic muscles

                                              Like we said earlier, the intrinsic muscles are the muscles that originate exclusively in your foot. These muscles aren’t as popular but they’re just as important as the extrinsic muscles. 

                                              They’re responsible for the fine motor actions of the foot like moving your toes. 

                                              While it’s not important to memorize these muscles, it’s still a good idea to have an idea about them. 

                                              So let’s just enumerate the muscles in this area: 

                                              Dorsal Aspect 

                                              A) Extensor Digitorum Brevis

                                              B) Extensor Hallucis Brevis
                                               
                                              Plantar Aspect - There are four layers of intrinsic muscles on the bottom part of the foot.

                                                A) First Layer:

                                                - Abductor Hallucis

                                                - Flexor Digitorum Brevis

                                                - Abductor Digit Minimi

                                                 

                                                B) Second Layer:

                                                - Quadratus Plantae

                                                - Lumbricals

                                                 

                                                C) Third Layer:

                                                - Flexor Hallucis Brevis

                                                - Adductor Hallucis

                                                - Flexor Digiti Minimi Brevis

                                                 

                                                D) Fourth Layer:

                                                - Plantar Interossei

                                                - Dorsal Interossei

                                                 

                                                Pat yourself on the back because you’ve just learned what makes up your feet and ankle! 

                                                But now that you have an idea of what goes on in your feet, what’s the next step?

                                                Now is the time for you to apply what you’ve learned and make a commitment to keep your feet healthy.  

                                                How to Keep Your Feet and Ankles Healthy

                                                 

                                                 

                                                 

                                                Keeping your feet and ankles healthy is important so that you can continue doing activities that you love. 

                                                Try out these methods so that you can keep your feet and ankles in tip-top shape. 

                                                Avoid exercising or playing sports when you’re tired or in pain. You’re prone to injuries when you’re tired so make sure you’re fully rested before engaging in exercise. If rest is not an option for you then it’d be best if you avoided the activity completely.

                                                  Warm-up before physical activities. Doing the proper warm-up will prevent unwanted injuries from occurring.

                                                  Watch your step. You’re prone to twisting your ankle when you don’t watch where you’re going. So be careful out there!

                                                  Wear proper shoes. Wearing shoes that fit you well gives your feet better stability when walking, running, or exercising.

                                                  Run on flat surfaces. This might be obvious but running on uneven surfaces is a recipe for twisting your ankle. If you need to run on them, however, make sure you’re wearing the proper equipment. 

                                                  Be careful when wearing heels. Yes, ladies, heels aren’t as glamorous as you think. Heels are a common cause of ankle sprains among women. Be careful when wearing heels otherwise you’ll be trading in a few inches of height for a foot cast. 

                                                  Train your balance. Our ability to balance declines as we age. Doing balance exercises will help to avoid ankle and foot injuries. 

                                                  Apply a cold pack. A good ol’ ice pack will reduce the swelling and inflammation after a long day at work or after exercising. Here at IceWraps.com, our ice packs are guaranteed to help you recover and keep you going further each day!

                                                   


                                                  Take It a Step Further 

                                                  There you have it! 

                                                  I know it can be a lot to take in but knowing the foot and ankle anatomy doesn’t have to be complicated. We hope that you’re beginning to appreciate how great your feet are. Your feet help you to do many things so give them that TLC they deserve. 

                                                  Aside from giving you a pool of new tongue twisters to tell your kids, in this article we talked about what makes up the different parts of the ankle and foot. We also covered ways that you can do to prevent foot and ankle injuries. 

                                                  Remember that being aware of what makes up your foot and ankle will help you to better care for them. Prevention is always better than cure, so a healthy diet with regular exercise will also help reduce your chances of getting injured. 

                                                  Also, don’t forget that a simple cold pack application to your feet does wonders whenever you feel pain. 

                                                  At IceWraps.com, we’re committed to making sure your pain is relieved with our top-of-the-line products. Make sure to check them out because pain relief is just a click away!








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