Foot Anatomy and How It Relates to Common Issues
It’s easy to take your body for granted when everything is running smoothly. You probably don’t consider facts like blood travels 12,000 miles within your body in a single day and you generate roughly 25 million new cells every second. The body might be overlooked as a whole, but we’re inclined to think feet, in particular, don’t get their fair share of recognition. Let’s take a look at these complex structures and see how common foot problems can arise.
General Foot Anatomy
Important anatomical components to know when we discuss foot structure include bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Each foot and ankle possesses twenty-six (26) bones and over one hundred (100) muscles and connective tissues. In order to allow for mobility and endure the tremendous amount of forces placed upon them, feet have thirty-three (33) unique joints.
People have a general understanding of bone and muscle tissues but can get a little confused about the connective tissues. Basically, tendons anchor muscles to specific bones and ligaments are responsible for connecting bones to other bones.
In addition to the aforementioned structural components, there are also networks of nerves and blood vessels found underneath and within layers of skin that enable the appendages to feel physical sensations and receive the nourishment needed to sustain healthy tissue.
When we break down the foot anatomy, it can help to view it as three distinct areas – the forefoot, midfoot, and hindfoot.
The front of the foot is comprised of the five toes and five long bones (metatarsals), which run lengthwise along the foot.
When it comes to toes, the structural foundation of these dependable digits are phalanges. There are fourteen (14) phalange bones in each foot —3 in each of the smaller toes and 2 in the big toe. The phalange bones closest to the foot are “proximal” ones and they connect to each respective metatarsal bone to form a joint known as the metatarsophalangeal joint (MTPJ).
- Common foot problems we see in this area include – bunions, gout, athlete’s foot, stress fractures, arthritic conditions, corns and calluses, ingrown toenails, fungal nails, hammertoes (and mallet and claw toes), metatarsalgia, and Morton’s neuroma.
Bunions, gout, ingrown nails, fungal toenails, and the toe deformities naturally happen in this region of the foot, since it contains the toes. Athlete’s foot and fungal nails often originate here because of the warm, damp environment found between the digits.
The midfoot builds up in a pyramid-like structure of bones—three cuneiform bones, the navicular bone and the cuboid bone—that form the foot arches.
- Common midfoot issues include – Lisfranc injuries, fractures, plantar fasciitis, arthritic conditions, fallen arches, and cavus foot.
Fallen arches and cavus foot (high arches) are structural abnormalities found in the midfoot. The Lisfranc joint complex essentially overlaps between the mid- and forefoot.
The back part of the foot contains the ankle and heel. The heel bone (calcaneus) is the largest bone in the lower appendage, which is necessary for its function as the structural pillar for the human body. The heel bone is connected to the calf muscle by the Achilles tendon.
There are many joints found throughout the body, but two of the most important are found in the ankle, which is comprised of the talus bone and the lower leg bones (tibia and fibula). The ankle joint enables the foot to move up and down, and the subtalar joint enables it to move from side to side.
- Common hindfoot and ankle problems include – sprained ankles, plantar fasciitis, Sever’s disease, arthritic conditions, Achilles tendinitis and rupture, calluses, and heel spurs.
Heel pain is a particularly common reason for patients to come in and see us. The hindfoot supports the body and faces a tremendous amount of force and pressure.