In Depth: Foot
The foot is the lowermost point of the human leg. The foot’s shape, along with the body’s natural balance-keeping systems, make humans capable of not only walking, but also running, climbing, and countless other activities.
The foot’s complex structure contains more than 100 tendons, ligaments, and muscles that move nearly three dozen joints, while bones provide structure. The structure of the foot is similar to that of the hand, but because the foot bears more weight, it is stronger and less mobile.
The largest bone of the foot, the calcaneus, forms what is commonly referred to as the heel. It slopes upward to meet the tarsal bones, which point downward along with the remaining bones of the feet.
Below the juncture of these bones are the arches of the foot, which are three curves at the bottom of the foot that makes walking easier and less taxing for the body. These arches — the medial arch, lateral arch, and fundamental longitudinal arch — are created by the angles of the bones and strengthened by the tendons that connect the muscles and the ligaments that connect the bones.
The bones of the foot are organized into rows named tarsal bones, metatarsal bones, and phalanges. These make up the toes and broad section of the feet. The other bones of the foot that create the ankle and connecting bones include:
Many of the muscles that affect larger foot movements are located in the lower leg. However, the foot itself is a web of muscles that can perform specific articulations that help maintain balance and flex as a person walks.
The position and function of the feet can lead to problems that affect the feet, spine, and more. In some cases, these problems may result from footwear that does not properly work with the foot’s alignment or throws off the body’s natural weight balance.
Common foot problems include:
- Foot pain
- Athlete’s foot
- Plantar warts
- Gout (a type of arthritis)
- Plantar fasciitis (heel pain)
- Stress fractures
- Diabetic foot ulcers