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What is the Anatomy of the Foot?

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  • Written By: Ron Marr
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 02 November 2016
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The human foot is an amazingly complex part of the body. It absorbs and distributes hundreds of pounds of pressure with every step a person takes. Even a slight injury to the foot can affect a person’s balance, posture, and spinal alignment. To cope with the pounding it takes on a daily basis, the anatomy of the foot consists of 26 bones, 33 joints, and hundreds of tendons, ligaments, and interconnected muscles.

The anatomy of the foot is usually described in terms of the forefoot, midfoot, and hindfoot. The forefoot can be best described as consisting of five toes and five bones. Four of the toes contain three bones each, known as phalanges, while the big toe contains two phalanges. Five long bones attach to the phalanges via joints, and comprise the anatomy of the foot, also called the metatarsus.

The bones of the midfoot, such as the cuboid, the navicular, and the three cuneiform bones, form the foot’s arch. Muscles connect the midfoot to the hindfoot and forefoot. Damage to bones of the midfoot are the cause of the common injury referred to as a “fallen arch.” The anatomy of the foot is such that it has three arches, two of these being longitudinal and one being transverse.

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The hindfoot is the location of the ankle and heel bones. Two bones of the leg, the fibula and tibia, attach to the ankle bone. A joint connects the ankle to the heel bone, which is the largest bone of the foot. The heel bone absorbs a tremendous amount of pressure when a person walks, runs, or jumps, and is cushioned by a layer of fat.

The foot’s arches are capable of a slight bending and flexing action. This mobility pulls and tightens the muscles, ligaments and tendons in a manner that makes walking and running a fluid process. Without such movement, the foot would simply land flat upon the ground, causing a great deal of pain and increased expenditure of energy. The analogy is akin to strapping boards to the bottom of one’s feet. A person could still walk, but the effort would soon become exhausting.

The muscles, ligaments, and tendons found in the anatomy of the foot are arranged in a manner reminiscent of an extremely complicated rope and pulley system. These features are found on the sides of the foot, within the foot, and both outside and inside certain joints. Every step a person takes causes the bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, and tendons to engage in a process of give and take. The anatomy of the foot is such that all elements work together, with the sole purpose of allowing one to be ambulatory in the most comfortable and efficient manner possible.

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