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Foot Anatomy

The foot is an incredibly complicated structure. Each foot contains five sets of toe bones called phalanges which are attached to the long bones in the foot, called metatarsals. The central part of the foot, referred to as the midfoot, contains cuneiforms bones, cuboid bones and navicular bone. These bones attach to the rear foot. The rear foot bones include talus, commonly called the ankle bone and the calceaneus, commonly called the heel bone. There are numerous small muscles in the feet, called intrinsic muscles. The main tendons in the foot originate in the leg and course over the ankle to attach to bones in the foot. Ligaments attach from one bone to another and hold these bones together. The bones, tendons, muscles and ligaments all work together to create complex movements allowing you to stand, balance and propel yourself forward.



Anatomy images of bones in the foot lateral viewBones in the Foot

In the diagram to the right, the foot is viewed from the side and the foot bones are labeled. The ankle bones are the tibia, fibula and talus. Under the talus is the heel bone, called the calcaneus. The calcaneus attaches to the cuboid. The midfoot bones include the navicular, cuboid and cuneiforms. The long bones in the foot are called the metatarsals and they attach the midfoot bones to the toe bones. The toes are made up of a number of small bones called phalanges. The metatarsal phalangeal joint is the joint that joints metatarsals and phalanges together. 


Bones in the Foot: Top View and Bottom View

A labeled diagram of the bones in the foot is shown below.  The diagram on the left has the bones labeled looking down from the top of the foot (dorsal). The diagram on the right has the bones labeled looking from the bottom of the foot (plantar).

Anatomy bones of the foot labeled Foot anatomy bones plantar view labeled A. distal phalanx of the hallux
B. proximal phalanx of the hallux
C. distal phalanges
D. intermediate phalanges
E. proximal phalanges
F. 1st metatarsal
G. lesser metatarsals
H. medial cuneiform
I. intermediate cuneiform
J.  lateral cuneiform
K. styloid process
L. cuboid
M. navicular
N. talus
O. calcaneus
P. sesamoid




Foot anatomy tendons dorsal view labeledTendons on the Top of the Foot

A tendon is a structure that connects the muscle to the bone. It can be described as a cord or a band of connective tissue. The extensor hallucis longus originates in the front of the leg and travels down the ankle to attach on the big toe. The function is to pull up the big toe (extend) and pull up the ankle (dorsiflex). The extensor digitorum longus originates in the front of the legs, also travels across the ankle and inserts on all the toes. This tendon pulls the toes up (extend) and pulls up the ankle (dorsiflex).  The extensor digitorum brevis is a small muscle that originates on the top of the heel bone and extends out to the digits. The extensor digitorum brevis pulls the toes up (extends the toes). 

Also labeled in the diagram to the right is the 1st metatarsal, the long bone on the inside of the foot, the styloid process, which is the attachment point for the peroneal brevis tendon (not labeled) and lastly the talus, which is the ankle bone.



Tendons on the Bottom of the Foot

Small muscles and tendons on the bottom of the foot labeledThe image below shows the flexor hallucis longus, the flexor digitorum brevis, flexor digitorum longus and posterior tibial tendon. The flexor hallucis longus originates in the back of the leg, crosses the ankle and inserts on the base of the small bone in the big toe. It's action is to bend the big toe down (flex) and bend the ankle down (plantar flex). The flexor hallucis brevis is a small muscle that originates from the small bones on the bottom of the foot and inserts on the base of the big toe. It's action is to bend the big toe down (flex). The flexor digitorum longus originates in the back of the leg, crosses the ankle and inserts on the tips of the toes. It's action is to bend the toes down (flex) and bend the ankle down (plantar flex). The posterior tibialis originates in the back of the leg, cross the ankle and inserts on the navicular and on the bottom of the midfoot within the arch. The action of the posterior tibialis is to bend the ankle down (plantar flex) and to support the arch (supinate).


Small Muscles in the Bottom of the Foot (Intrinsics)

There are four layers in the bottom of the foot and each layer contains small muscles which help the foot function and maintain balance and support. The quadratus plantae originates from the heel bone and extends to the flexor digitorum longus and assists in flexing the toes down. The flexor digiti minimi brevis originates at the base of 5th metatarsal and sheath of peroneus longus tendon and extends to the base of the 5th toe.  The lumbricals originate on the flexor digitorum longus tendon and extend to the inside of the toes, extending the toes, but flexing the metatarsal phalangeal joints. The interossei are not labeled in the image, but are small muscles, located deep in the bottom of the foot, which help stabilize the toes.


The most common foot condition associated with tendons is tendinitis, also referred to as tendinosis or tendinopathy. More information on tendonitis/tendinosis, posterior tibial tendonitis and phases of tendon healing



The following images show the orientation of the foot and the common anatomical foot structures and common foot problems associated with these structures.

Foot anatomy image labeled

Anatomy of the lateral foot labeled

Anatomy of the anterior view Anatomy foot posterior view labeled
Medial Lateral Anterior Posterior


The inside (medial), outside (lateral) and front (anterior) and back of the foot (posterior) are shown in the image below. In the first view, titled medial view, the inside of the arch and ankle are shown. You can see the origin of the plantar fascia, which is a common area of heel pain. The great toe and the posterior tibial tendon are also shown. Pain at the inside of the arch can be due to posterior tibial tendonitis. The second view, titled lateral, shows the outside of the foot. The peroneal brevis tendon insertion is labeled and this is a common area of pain in peroneal tendonitis. Avulsion fractures of the base of the 5th metatarsal will have pain in this area as well. In the third view of the front of the foot, titled anterior, the common area of nerve impingement is labeled. The great toe is also labeled. The most common problem at the great toe is a bunion. Osteoarthritis is also common at the great toe joint, also known as the 1st metatarsal phalangeal joint. The last image shows the back of the foot, also known as the posterior aspect and the Achilles tendon and it's insertion are labeled. The two areas labeled are the common areas of pain in Achilles tendonitis.

Common structural foot problems that develop at the metatarsal phalangeal joints include bunions and hammertoes.




More Foot Anatomy Information, Images and Diagrams

  • Bones in the Foot: more details and images on the bones in the foot.
  • Tendons and Ligaments: information on foot and ankle tendons and ligaments including the extensor tendons, the flexor tendons and the ligaments of the ankle.
  • Great Toe Joint: diagrams of the structures of the 1st metatarsal phalangeal joint, known as the big toe joint or the great toe joint.
  • Toenail Anatomy: Diagrams, illustrations and descriptions of the toenail.
  • Biomechanics: information on foot function and the mechanics of the foot. Definitions for dorsiflexion, plantarflexion, inversion, eversion, supination and pronation.
  • Terminology/medical dictionary: definitions of medical terms and structures relating to the foot and ankle.

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last updated 06/10/15




Copyright: Most of the images on this page are copyright Primal Pictures and are not the property of Northcoast Footcare, Inc.

Disclaimer: The advice on this website is not intended to substitute for a visit to your health care provider. We will not be held liable for any diagnosis made or treatment recommended. Consult your doctor if you feel you have a medical problem