Anatomy of the Foot

Robert G. Parker
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Dr. Parker is a podiatrist and surgeon in Houston, TX who has been helping patients for more than 40 years.

While we often take it for granted, it’s important to realize that a person’s feet support the entire weight of their body. This may not seem like much stress, but by the end of the average lifespan a person has walked 115,000 miles. In order for this to be done efficiently, there is a complex structure of muscles, bones, blood vessels, nerves, ligaments, and tendons within the foot.  It is when one of these tissues or bones breaks down that we see foot conditions arise.

Each foot contains 26 bones and 33 joints

Bones

More than half of the bones in the human body can be found in the feet. The foot is comprised of 26 bones and 33 joints. The bones in the hind foot allow it to bend up and down and to rock from side to side. The mid-foot bones work in unison to allow the foot to form around whatever surface it touches. The metatarsals of the forefoot provide for little movement as they are rigidly connected. The joints of the phalanges are necessary for a normal gait. The big toe joint is affected by a common foot condition known as a bunion.

Ligaments and Tendons

Ligaments are made of soft tissue that connects one bone to another bone. The main difference between ligaments and tendons is that they connect bones to muscles. Both tissues are mostly made of collagen fibers that are wrapped up like a rope. The Achilles tendon is the most well known as its use is critical in walking and jumping. Without this tendon, we wouldn’t be able to raise ourselves up onto our toes. Many ligaments and tendons are responsible for the foot’s ability to contort and move in many different directions. In addition to this mobility, some ligaments hold the foot together as well as form joint capsules. These capsules develop around all joints to increase stability of movement.

Muscles

For every action there must be a cause, and muscles are the power behind movement in the foot. Their contractions in the legs and feet provide the body with the ability to move the feet, legs, and toes. There are also muscles along the sole of the foot that provide extra padding.

Nerves

There is one main nerve to the foot, the Tibial nerve, which sends sensory information from the soles of the feet and the toes to the brain.  This nerve cluster also helps to control the muscles of the feet. Many other nerves are spread throughout the foot to provide sensation. If the nerves are damaged, foot care has to become a priority in a patient’s life. Without being able to properly sense the damage that conditions may be wreaking on the foot, it is necessary to perform a daily check-up yourself.

The anatomy of the foot is quite complex and requires intensive care and understanding to treat appropriately. If any individual part is damaged, it increases the chance of complications and injuries arising within other parts of the foot. For a professional diagnosis and treatment of the feet and ankles schedule an appointment online with Dr. Robert Parker. Our Houston office can also be contacted at 281-497-2850 for any questions you may have.