Anatomy of the Foot

Your feet have an incredible design. Consider this: your lowest limbs must be sturdy and strong enough to support the force of your movements—which can be much heavier than your actual body weight—while remaining flexible enough to turn, rotate, and otherwise adjust to the surface on which you step. The structures work together to absorb shock from your landings and to push off the ground so that you can move forward. All in all, your feet are one of your body’s more complicated parts, comprising a quarter of the bones in your body and more than a hundred tendons, ligaments, and muscles.

The Supporters

Each foot has 26 bones that interlock perfectly. The ankle and heel are the talus and calcaneus respectively. They attach to the five lesser tarsal bones in the middle of the foot, which fit together in such a way that they slide smoothly and allow the foot to move when it twists one way, but lock together and become solid when it rotates in the other direction. That way the foot is able to adjust to uneven surfaces. The five metatarsals are longer bones connected to these lesser tarsals. They are more rigid and make up the forefoot. The joints where they meet the phalanges, or toe bones, form the ball of the foot. You also have two tiny bones embedded in a tendon under the big toe to give it more leverage, called the sesamoids.

Learn about foot anatomyThe Connectors

Ligaments and tendons are strong but flexible rope-like tissues that either attach bone to bone or muscle to bone. They make it possible for your skeleton to both hold together and to move around. Tendons, which tack muscles to bone, are largely responsible for your foot’s mobility. The Achilles’ tendon ties the calf muscle to the back of the heel so that your foot can point downward or push off the ground. When the Achilles tendon is injured, lots of pain ensues. Its opposite is the anterior tibial tendon, which makes it possible to pull the foot upward. Other tendons and ligaments work together to hold your arch in place and wiggle your toes.

The Movers

Although tendons are the structures that actually attach to the bones so your foot moves, the tissues doing the pulling are your muscles. Most of your mobility comes from larger muscles in the lower leg, like the calf and its opposites in your shins. Some smaller muscles, however, can be found in your actual foot. They are generally responsible for toe stabilization and movements and help pad your sole.

The Messengers

You also have a number of blood vessels and nerves in your feet, bringing needed nutrients and signals from your brain to keep all the pieces alive and functioning. When they aren’t working well, you can feel the difference. Without proper blood flow, your body isn’t be able to heal injuries, fight off infections, or provide the necessary oxygen and energy to your tissues, therefore leaving your tissues vulnerable to damage and death. Nerve breakdown is not only painful on its own, but it keeps you from feeling when other problems are developing.

Your feet are incredible and complex. Treating them for pain and problems requires in-depth study, training, and experience to actually address the problem without accidentally causing trouble in another area. If you’re struggling with pain in your feet and ankles, don’t ignore it and allow the problem to worsen. Instead, contact the experts at Sierra Foot & Ankle by calling (775) 783-8037 or request an appointment online.