A foot ligament is a strong fibrous band of tissue that connects the bones of the foot, and aids in foot stabilization. Much like an elastic band, a ligament will lengthen when under tension and return to its natural resting length when the tension is released. Too much tension, however, can stretch a ligament beyond its capacity, and it will no longer be able to return to its normal length, which results in an injury that needs medical attention. An injured ligament can't provide support to the bones it's designed to stabilize, which can result in further injuries.
Tendons are strong non-elastic bands of tissue that connect muscles to bones. Ligaments connect bones and help to hold muscles and tendons in place. There are a total of 18 ligaments in the human foot, which can be divided in groups, which include the ankle joint, the ligaments of the upper ankle, the ligaments of the subtalar joint, and the ligaments of the foot.
Ankle joint ligaments act as stabilizers for the ankle joint, which is where the ankle bone joins with the lower leg bones. Any of the ankle ligaments can be injured when the ankle is rolled or broken, but the anterior talofibular ligament is the foot ligament that is most commonly injured. The ligaments of the upper ankle hold together the lower legs bones, the tibia and the fibula, and join them with the ankle bone, also known as the talus bone. Subtalar ligaments hold the subtalar joint together, which is the joining of the talus bone with calcaneus bone, otherwise known as the heel bone.
The foot ligaments stabilize the numerous bones of the foot called the tarsals, metatarsals, and the phalanges. The tarsal bones are found at the ankle joint and include the talus, calcaneus, cuboid, navicular, and the first, second, and third cuneiform bones. The five long metatarsal bones are located mid-foot and follow the tarsal bones. The end of the foot is made up of the 14 phalanges, or toe bones.
A sprain occurs when a foot ligament is injured, while a strain occurs when the injury is to a muscle or tendon. Over extension of the ligament, or repetitive stress, also called cumulative trauma disorder, can cause a sprained foot ligament. Treatment for an injured foot ligament usually involves icing the area to reduce swelling and wrapping with a bandage to provide support. If the injury is severe enough, surgery may be required.