Anatomy of the Foot

You may already know that each of your feet contains 26 bones. But how do your bones connect and move? Actually your foot is an intricate framework of bones, ligaments, and muscles that interconnect to keep your body on the go, while supporting its weight.

Your Foot Anatomy

Each of your feet is a singular, strong foundation for your entire body, comprised of three sections that connect fluidly to work together: the forefoot, the midfoot, and the hindfoot.

Your Foot Bones

At the tip of our forefoot are your toes, made up of phalanges: two in your big toe, three in each of your other toes. Each of your big toes also contains two sesamoid bones which help to form the ball of your foot and aid the upward and downward mobility of each toe. Your forefoot includes five metatarsal bones that create the arch of your foot. This arch provides the “give” in your foot that enables you to jump and run with built-in shock absorption.

The tarsal bones that form the middle of your foot are as follows:

  • The navicular bone, located in front of the heel bone
  • Three cuneiform bones:
    • The medial cuneiform is the largest of the three and is at the base of the first metatarsal on the inside of the foot
    • Next to the medial cuneiform is the middle cuneiform
    • The wedge-shaped lateral cuneiform is between the medial cuneiform and the cuboid bone
  • The cuboid bone is located at the outside of the midfoot

The bone you know as your ankle – the talus – is found in your hindfoot. So is the largest bone in your entire foot, the calcaneus bone (heel bone), which connects the talus bone at the subtalar joint and allows you to rotate your ankle.

Foot Joints
Your foot bones help to form critical joints that enable your foot’s movement, including: ·

  • In the forefoot, condyloid joints allow you to flex and extend your toes
  • In the hindfoot, gliding joints allow you to move your foot fluidly

All your foot joints are lined with strong-yet-flexible articular cartilage, which provides a smooth surface that not only absorbs shock from impact but also allows your bones to glide across each other with very little friction. Synovial fluid produced naturally within your joints further promotes fluid movement.

When cartilage is worn down or destroyed through degeneration or injury, bone spurs and arthritis can result.

Soft Tissues in Your Foot
Along with cartilage, other soft tissues help connect our bones and keep them working together:

Your foot has 20 muscles that power your joints and enable your foot to move. Major muscles and muscle groups of the foot include:

  • The anterior tibial muscle helps your foot to move up and down
  • Extensors enable you to raise your toes
  • Flexors allow your toes to provide grip and stabilization that promotes balance
  • The posterior tibial muscle supports and protects your foot’s arch

Thanks to your strong tendons, your foot muscles connect securely to your foot bones. The two parallel peroneal tendons in the foot lie behind your ankle bone: one connects to the outer midfoot, and the other extends under the foot and connects around the inside of your foot’s arch.

Ligaments are made of tough, fibrous connective tissue that connect bones to each other, helping them to stay in place while stabilizing the foot joints. The largest ligament in your foot is the plantar fascia, which extends all the way from the heel bone to the forefoot. It holds the bones in place to maintain your arch, aiding balance. Lateral ligaments (outer foot) and medial ligaments (inner foot) help enable you to move your foot up and down.

Located near bones and joints, bursae are small sacs filled with lubricating synovial fluid. The smooth, cushioned sacs decrease the friction between bones. When bursae are inflamed as a result of repetitive motion (most commonly in the toes and heels), the result is bursitis.