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What is the anatomy of the foot?

Updated on 8 July 2024

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You can run, jump, climb and swim with them.

That’s right, we’re talking about your feet!

They are complex structures, but what are they truly made of?

Here’s your chance to learn more about the anatomy of the foot.

The different types of feet

There are 3 types of feet: the Greek foot, the Egyptian foot, and the Roman (or square) foot.

You can usually tell a foot’s type by its toes’ length and arrangement.

Every type of foot is defined by the following specifics:

  • The Greek foot: Common in 23% of the population, it is characterized by its second toe, which is longer than all the others.
  • Egyptian foot: This foot type is the most widespread and occurs in 50% of cases. The Egyptian foot is defined by the big toe being the highest.
  • Roman foot (square): In people with Roman feet (27% of the population), the first three toes are the same length.

As a general rule, the Greek foot is the easiest for putting on shoes, as it adapts better to the shape of the footwear.

However, if you have an Egyptian-type foot, you may experience some difficulty wearing your shoes.

Since few shoes are naturally designed to fit this foot shape, the Egyptian foot is more prone to developing a big toe bunion (hallux valgus).

The foot’s bones

The adult human foot can be divided into two main sections: the forefoot and the hindfoot.

The bones that make up the forefoot are the phalanges.

Normally, the forefoot has 14 phalanges, which corresponds to 3 phalanges per toe and 2 phalanges for the big toe.

The hindfoot, for its part, is represented by the tarsus.

The tarsus consists of 7 bones, including:

  • The calcaneus (heel bone);
  • The talus or astragalus, which serves as an anchor for the tibia and fibula;
  • The cuboid bone;
  • The navicular bone;
  • The three sphenoid bones (the intermediate, middle, and long bones).

Due to their heavy usage, the foot bones can sometimes break or crack after heavy impact or repeated trauma.

The following fractures can affect the bones of the forefoot or hindfoot:

  • A broken big toe;
  • A stress fracture of the metatarsal bone;
  • A heel fracture (calcaneus).

The foot’s arch

97% of people have flat feet at birth.

The real arch of the foot is only formed in the following years.

In adults there are 3 types of arches:

  • Flat foot: This form of the foot arch sags downward and often causes issues with the musculoskeletal system.
  • The average foot: Also called the normal foot, this foot type is generally healthy and does not result in any particular problems.
  • The cavus foot: In contrast to the flat foot, the cavus foot has a very pronounced arch. The cavus foot is hereditary and can also cause pain.

Here are some of the conditions that can be caused by an abnormal foot arch:

Typically, the podiatrist will suggest wearing custom foot orthoses in order to relieve pain and postural problems associated with a particular foot arch.

There is no one better than a podiatrist to help you fully understand your foot!

A podiatrist is a medical professional who possesses the expertise to understand and treat most foot conditions.

If you are affected by recurring discomfort or a plantar injury that takes too long to heal, it is crucial not to ignore your symptoms.

Do your feet prove confusing? Your podiatrist will be able to help you understand them.

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