Foot - Structure, Facts, Forefoot, Hind, Mid-foot

The Foot - A Work of Art

Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi profile Authored by Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi on 26 Mar 2014 - 14:08.

Foot (Part1)

The human foot outscores any of the engineering marvels known to mankind. It combines mechanical complexity and structural strength with an ability to perform complex movements with its ankle serving as a foundation, shock absorber and propulsion engine and an unbelievable capacity to sustain enormous pressure providing flexibility and resiliency.

Imagine a person running a distance of one mile and the foot carrying the weight of its owner equaling to several tons during the course of running. While so doing the foot maintains a perfect balancing act ensuring total control without any fall.

The foot facts:

  • 26 bones roughly one quarter of the total number of bones in the human body,
  • 33 joints and
  • Over hundred muscles and its tendons and  ligaments (fibrous bands connecting one bone to the other) and
  • A network of blood vessels, nerves, skin and soft tissue 
  • Sufficient quantity of fat to give the foot its shape and cushioning.

All these components work in unison with a perfect understanding to provide the body with support, balance and mobility.

Imagine a structural flaw (like in cases of congenital malformations) or a malfunction of any of these components and developing problems elsewhere in the body. Any abnormality in some other part of the body can also lead to a problem in the functioning of the foot.

Structure: The foot can be divided into three parts namely the forefoot, mid-foot and the hind foot.

The forefoot is composed of the five toes called the phalanges and their connecting long bones called metatarsals. Each toe has three phalanges except the great toe which has only two phalanges. The joints between the phalanges are known as inter-phalangeal joints and those between a phalanx and a metatarsal are called metatarsophalangeal joint which play their roles in the movement of the toes over the foot. The great toe has two tiny round bones called sesamoid bones that help gliding movements of the tendon responsible for up and down movements of the great toe. The forefoot bears half the weight of the body and balances pressure on the ball of the foot.

The mid-foot has five tarsal bones each one has different shape to suit perfect opposition to each other in the formation of the tarsal joints. They form the ARCH of the foot and mainly serve as a shock absorber. These bones are connected to those of the forefoot and the hind foot by muscles and the plantar fascia a thick ligament for the arch of the foot.

The hind foot is composed of three joints and links the midfoot to the ankle (a bone called talus). The top of the talus bone is connected to the two long bones of the leg called the tibia and the fibula forming a hinge joint which enables the foot movement upwards and downwards. The heel bone is called the calcaneus and is the largest bone in the foot which in combination with the talus forms the subtalar joint what helps in the rotatory movements of the ankle. The bottom of the heel is covered by a large amount of fat.

There are about 20 muscles in the foot that gives the foot its shape by holding the bones in position contract and relax to perform movements.

The tendons and fascia complete the components of the foot and play their respective roles in initiating movements as well as binding the bones together.

The foot works as an organ for locomotion. It serves the purpose of an adapter for the body above. It absorbs shock and cushions various other joints and structures and functions as a rigid lever in the act of propulsive movements during walking and running. It is in these varied functions of the foot lie, a variety of problems related to the foot that can affect four out of every five persons in the course of an average life span.

Even if we touch on the commonest problems affecting the foot it will need considerable space and hence will be covered in Part II of the article of the same name.

*Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.