The Parts of Your Foot

The human foot is amazing with its  28 bones, 30 joints, and more than 100 muscles, ligaments, and tendons. All of these parts work together seamlessly to provide you with balance and mobility. So, if the anatomy of the foot is as fascinating to you as it is to us, you came to the right place. Here are the medical terms for the parts of the foot and a few health conditions that can impact them.


Would you be surprised to hear that about 20% of the body’s bones are in our feet? It’s true, and they include the calcaneus. This is the largest foot bone, and it sits beneath the talus to form the heel. The talus is another important bone on top of the foot. Its job is to create a joint with the lower leg bones called the tibia and fibula.

Don’t forget about the arch — this structure is formed with five irregularly shaped bones called tarsals, while five metatarsals make up the forefoot, starting with your big toe. Phalanges are a collection of 14 toe bones. The big toe has just two phalanges, whereas the other toes have three. But that’s not all — you also have two small, pea-shaped bones called sesamoids that you’ll find beneath the first metatarsal in the ball of the foot.


Joints are formed when two or more foot bones meet. Each toe has three joints, except for the big one, which includes the metatarsophalangeal at the base of the toe, the proximal interphalangeal joint in the middle, and the distal phalangeal joint at the tip of the toe. The big toe only has a metatarsophalangeal and interphalangeal joint.

The surface of each bone is covered with a layer of cartilage where they meet. This soft connective tissue helps the bones glide smoothly against each other as you move. The joints are also protected by a thin membrane called the synovium, which secretes a lubricating fluid right into the joint.


Muscles are what give the foot the ability to move, and there are 19 internal muscles just inside your foot that move the toes, and another 13 leg muscles that cross the ankle that move the foot. There are  2 main muscles that allow you to lift the heel and 5 secondary muscles that lift your heel as well as other movements to allow you to walk and move from side to side. One important muscle, called the tibialis posterior, supports the arch and lifts the heel. When this muscle gets damaged or injured the arch of the foot may fall flat and become very painful. The muscles that allow the foot to move side to side (for lateral sports) are the peroneus brevis and peroneus longus.

Tendons and Ligaments

The tendons in the foot attach the muscles to the bones, and the numerous ligaments attach bones to each other, helping to maintain your arch architecture. You’ve probably heard of the Achilles tendon. It’s the main heel lifter muscle in the foot and runs from behind the knee all the way to the back of the heel. This Achilles tendon is one of the largest tendons in the body and is very important for gait, and when injured, it is difficult to walk, and if torn surgery is the best way to repair it.

There are other vital structures in your foot, including the plantar fascia. This is a thick fascia band that supports the arch of the foot. You can find it running along the sole, from heel to toe, to help form the arch. When the plantar fascia stretches and contracts, it provides support for the arch and a tether-like band to keep the foot structure properly aligned so the foot functions correctly.

Common Foot Problems

By age 50, the average person walks close to 75,000 miles. With so many moving parts in the foot, it’s not surprising how easy it is to injure or overuse this part of the body. While there are many potential ailments related to your feet, there are eight common conditions that can cause pain, restrict movement, or lead to instability. Thankfully, there are many holistic options to treat issues, such as the following:

  • Plantar fasciitis: This ailment is common among runners and is caused by microtears in the connective tissue on the bottom of the foot, usually due to overstretching.
  • Bunions: This bony protrusion is a misalignment of the first large metatarsal bone that comes from improperly aligned feet. It is hereditary and  can be aggravated by poor-fitting shoes, or some activities  
  • Flat feet:  Some people are born with pes planus or flat feet. It can lead to hip, knee, or lower back pain. Foot structure is hereditary and doesn’t change with time, but the flattening or “pronating” of the feet can cause many issues mentioned above. 
  • Heel spurs: This bony overgrowth may cause pain if they are located on the back side of the heel bone, where the Achilles attaches but when underneath the heel bone, it can sometimes be related to a diagnosis of plantar fasciitis.
  • Mallet toe: The last toe joint becomes permanently bent downward with this condition and is often the result of poor-fitting shoes, trauma, or disease.
  • Metatarsalgia: This medical issue centers around pain under the ball of the foot from pressure caused by high-heeled shoes, arthritis, nerve compression, or ligament or capsule tears.
  • Claw toe: This deformity affects 2 different middle joints in the toe, causing the toe to a flexion bend of both joints. This can lead to painful callouses or corns on the affected digit.
  • Morton’s neuroma: This condition occurs when the nerves between the metatarsals become compressed and cause a pinching of the nerve. It may feel like there’s a pebble in your shoe under the ball of the foot at the base of the toes.

Do Your Feet Hurt?

If your feet hurt, there are ways to relieve your pain with effective podiatric medicine. To diagnose problems related to the anatomical structures in the foot, Dr. Schoene and Dr. Bever will examine your feet and look for signs of swelling, deformity, abnormal growths, injuries, or misalignment.  They will then review your symptoms and medical history and evaluate your gait to look for irregularities (OMIT). Imaging tests are often central to the diagnosis and can include X-rays,   Diagnostic Ultrasounds CT scans, or MRIs.

Book Your Appointment in Gurnee or Chicago

If you’re suffering from a condition in any part of your foot, Gurnee Podiatry & Sports Medicine Associates can help. Get in touch with our office today and schedule a thorough evaluation. Together, we’ll formulate a treatment plan that’s right for you.