The basic anatomy of the human foot allows us to walk, run, jump, dance and do many other activities, including supporting the body when we are standing up. Structurally, the anatomy of the foot is similar to that of the hand, although with less ability for fine, complex movements. In this article, we’ll discuss the different components of the basic anatomy of the human foot, including its major bones, muscles, tendons, nerves and blood vessels.
Bones of the human foot
The bones of the foot begin with the two bones that make up the lower leg, the tibia and fibula. These join with the talus bone to form the ankle. Anterior to the talus is the navicular bone, followed by the three cuneiform bones and the cuboid bone. The three cuneiforms serve as the base for the bones that will eventually become the big toe and the second and third toes; the cuboid bone forms the outer edge of the mid-foot and is the bone from which the fourth toe emerges. These bones connect to the five metatarsal bones, which are homologous to the metacarpal bones in the hand. The metatarsals connect to the phalanges, which are the toe bones. Like the thumb, the big toe is composed of two phalanges, while the remaining toes are composed of three. Finally, the largest bone in the foot is the calcaneus or heel bone.
Muscles and tendons in the human foot
The foot contains many small muscles to coordinate the movements and balance of all of its bones, and the larger muscles of the lower leg are critical for certain foot movements as well. For example, the tibialis anterior muscle is responsible for moving the foot up and down, while the peroneus muscles control the movements of the outer ankle. The many extensor digitorum muscles control the movement of the toes.
The major tendon in the human foot is the Achilles tendon, which attaches the soleus and gastrocnemius muscles of the calf to the calcaneus (heel bone), which is why it is also known as the calcaneal tendon. Tendons exist anywhere a muscle attaches to a bone, so the foot also contains several extensor digitorum tendons, extensor hallucis tendons, and peroneal tendons.
Nerves and blood vessels in the foot
The nerves in the foot come from the nerves in the lower leg, which can be traced back up through the upper leg and into the spinal nerves of the lower vertebrae (lumbar and sacral vertebrae). One of the most important nerves in the foot is the tibial nerve, but there are many smaller nerves branching out all over the foot which communicate sensory information to the brain (such as temperature or pain) and carry motor impulses to the muscles to make movement possible.
The most important blood vessels in the foot are the posterior tibial vein and artery and the peroneal artery. The arteries carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the foot, while the veins carry carbon dioxide-rich (oxygen depleted) blood back up to the heart for more oxygen.