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Anatomy of the feet

The complex and unique anatomy of the feet enables them to support our every step.

Your feet—and all their parts—are pretty remarkable. Working together, they make movement, walking and many other everyday activities possible.

The feet have 38 muscles, 52 bones, 66 joints, 214 ligaments and nearly 250,000 sweat glands.

Your feet can absorb up to 1 million pounds of pressure during just one hour of heavy exercise and may travel about 1,000 miles each year.

What feet are made of

The two bones of your lower leg, the tibia and fibula, come together at your ankle joint. This is a very stable joint that allows your foot to bend up and down.

Nearby are the bones of your hindfoot, the talus and calcaneus (heel bone). These bones join at the subtalar joint, which allows your foot to rock from side to side.

Moving down your foot are tarsals, metatarsals (the five long bones of the foot) and phalanges (toe bones). The big toe, or hallux, is the most important toe for walking. Its bones connect with a metatarsal to form the joint that is the ball of your foot.

Step by step

The various parts of your feet and legs work together to help you take a step. Here's how it happens:

  1. Your Achilles tendon attaches your calf muscles to your heel bone and allows you to rise up on your toes as you begin the step.
  2. Muscles, tendons and ligaments tighten, allowing your toes to push your weight off the ground.
  3. As your other foot touches down, your heel lands first. Some of the muscles, tendons and ligaments begin to relax, while others begin to work, enabling your foot to flatten out until that foot begins the process again.
All of these actions take place in a fraction of a second, proving that, at least under the surface, walking involves more than simply putting one foot in front of the other.

Reviewed 11/3/2022

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