Foot Anatomy

» Foot
» Foot Anatomy
Related Categories:
Share this page

Foot Anatomy



Welcome to the patient guide to foot injuries and surgery from Hicksville Physical Therapy. Here, we’ve compiled an in-depth article about foot anatomy. On the left-hand menu, you can find more detailed information about ankle injuries.

Our feet are some of the most stressed parts of our bodies. It’s not a surprise, then, that nearly 80 percent of adults will experience an issue with their feet throughout their lifetime. The condition of our feet can be impacted by our activity levels, jobs, additional health concerns, and even our shoes; this final factor may even be the most important. A majority of foot-related issues are a direct result of our shoes, which means it is vital to select shoes that will support your feet throughout the day.

The foot is one of the most complex parts of our bodies. This brief overview of the foot’s anatomy is not all-inclusive, but it simply discusses the major structures that have to do with conditions of the foot and surgical procedures that may be performed.

This guide will cover:

  • The various parts of the foot
  • How the foot works

Important Structures

The most vital structures of the foot can be separated into distinct categories, including:

  • Joints and bones
  • Tendons and ligaments
  • Muscles
  • Nerves
  • Blood vessels

Bones and Joints

At the base of the foot’s skeleton, you’ll find the ankle bone, also known as the talus, which forms a portion of the ankle joint. The tibia and the fibula, respectively the larger and smaller bones in the lower leg, join together at the ankle, forming a stable structure referred to as a mortise and tenon joint.

Mortise and Tenon


Craftspeople and carpenters are likely already familiar with the mortise and tenon joint, as it is often used in construction for everything from small pieces of furniture to skyscraping buildings. The arrangement is incredibly stable.

The back part of the foot, often called the hindfoot, is made of two bones: the talus and the calcaneus (also known as the heelbone). The talus connects to the calcaneus at the subtalar joint.


The ankle joint is vital to our movement as it helps the foot bend up and down. The subtalar joint, on the other hand, lets the foot rock and rotate from side to side.

Joint Bends Up and Down

Foot Rocks Side to Side

Past the ankle, just down the foot, are the tarsal bones, a collection of five bones that work together as a set. These bones are fitted together like no other group in the body. Multiple joints lie between the tarsal bones. If a foot is twisted in a certain direction by the foot and leg muscles, the tarsal bones become locked together and form an incredibly firm structure. When twisted in the other direction, the tarsal bones unlock from one another so the foot can adapt to the given surface.

Connected to the tarsal bones are five long bones on top of the foot known as the metatarsals. These two bone groups are quite solidly connected, not allowing much movement at the joints.

Finally, at the end of the foot are the toe bones, known as the phalanges. Between the metatarsals and the first phalanx are joints known as the metatarsophalangeal joints (MTP). These joints make up the ball of the foot, and the movement within these joints is crucial for a typical walking pattern.

There is not much motion within the joints between the toe bones. The big toe, also known as the hallux, is the most vital toe for walking, and the first MTP joint is where many foot issues commonly occur.

Ligaments and Tendons

Ligaments are soft tissues that attach bones to each other. Ligaments are much the same as tendons; the biggest distinction is that tendons connect muscles to bones. Both structures consist of miniscule fibers of collagen. These collagen fibers come together to form a structure much like a rope. Tendons and ligaments appear in a wide range of sizes, and similar to rope, consist of multiple smaller fibers. The thicker the tendon or ligament is, the stronger it is.


The sizable Achilles tendon is easily the most vital tendon for jumping, running, and walking. This tendon connects the calf muscles to the heel bone, which lets us stand on tiptoe. The posterior tibial tendon attaches one of the smaller muscles of the calf to the underside of the foot. In turn, this tendon supports the foot’s arch and lets us turn our feet inward. Tendons attached to the toes bend the toes downward (on the toe bottom) and straighten out the toes (on the toe top). The anterior tibial tendon lets us raise our feet. Finally, two tendons are found behind the ankle’s outer bump (also known as the lateral malleolus) and allow us to turn our feet outward.

Several small ligaments are responsible for holding the foot bones together. Many of these ligaments form a portion of the joint capsule around each foot joint. A joint capsule is a sac around all joints that is watertight, made of ligaments surrounding the joint and the soft tissues among the ligaments that fill the gaps and make up the sac.


The majority of the foot’s motion is attributed to the lower leg and its strong muscles, where the tendons come together in the foot. These muscles contract and allow us to move our feet in order to stand up, walk around, run, and jump.

 The foot has several small muscles. These small muscles are not nearly as significant as the hand’s small muscles, but they do have an impact on how the toe works. If these muscles are damaged, problems can result.

The majority of the muscles of the foot lie in layers on the foot’s sole (known as the plantar surface). Here, the muscles connect with and move the toes while also offering padding between the foot’s sole.

Foot Muscles


The tibial nerve is the foot’s main nerve. This nerve enters the foot’s sole by sitting behind the inside bump on the ankle, also known as the medial malleolus.

Tibial Nerve

The tibial nerve gives sensation to the foot’s sole and toes and helps to control the muscles found at the foot’s sole. Multiple other nerves come into the foot via the outside and the top of the foot. These nerves mainly serve to give sensation to various areas on the outside edge and the top of the foot.

Other Nerves

Blood Vessels

The posterior tibial artery is the foot’s main blood supply. This artery runs directly beside the nerve that shares its name. Other less notable arteries come into the foot from various directions.

Posterior Tibial Artery

One artery, the dorsalis pedis, runs down the top of the foot. Where this artery runs down the middle of the top of the foot, you can feel your pulse.

Dorsalis Pedis

Share this page