If you’ve ever seen the inside of a watch you might have been fascinated by all of the individual parts that make the device work. All of the tiny cogs and gears work in tandem to make a watch that keeps perfect time. When any one of the components breaks down, the system is disrupted and the watch ceases to function properly. The anatomy of the foot is very similar to this analogy in that there are over 100 parts of the feet that work in unison to produce mobility for the human body. Similarly, when a single bone or tissue within the foot ceases to work properly, the entire balance within the foot shifts and the structures cannot perform their functions efficiently. The biomechanics of the feet to produce many of the motions people use in activities like walking, climbing, and jumping.
As with any part of the body, feet and ankles require a steady flow of blood to provide nutrients and remove excess material. It is the posterior tibial artery that provides the bulk of the blood flow to the feet. When the passageways that bring blood to the feet are blocked, many people experience symptoms like skin discoloration and loss of hair on the legs because of the loss of necessary nutrients. Patients with diabetes and cancer are often at risk for conditions involving the blood vessels and may suffer further from a reduced ability to heal injuries.
Bones and Joints
These structures provide the framework which the body relies upon for most daily activities. Each foot uses an array of 26 bones and 33 joints in order to aid in the stability and support of the body. These bones and joints are split into three categories for easier identification. The forefoot is composed of the toes, or phalanges, and metatarsals to allow the motions necessary to propel the foot forward when running or jumping. The midfoot comprises the arch and utilizes the tarsal bones to provide shock absorption across the surface of the foot. The hindfoot uses a variety of larger bones to promote stability throughout the body. As a large portion of the body’s weight constantly applies pressure to these bones, heel pain is a common concern for patients.
Ligaments and Tendons
Ligaments and tendons are the medium through which force is transferred in the feet. While muscles initiate the movements of the body, it is the tendons and ligaments that properly guide the bones of the feet and ankles into the positions they need to be in. These soft tissues are made of ropey stands of fiber called collagen. The way in which these fibers are intertwined produces a greater tensile strength and allows for strenuous movements to be completed with more ease. The most well known tendon within the body is the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscle to the heel bone to permit up and down motions in the feet. Without ligaments in the feet and ankles, many of the bones would not stay together; these tissues often encapsulate the joints in the body.
Without the contractions of muscles we would be unable to move our bodies whatsoever. Most of the muscles that aid in movement of the feet are found in layers along the plantar surface of the foot. This dense compilation of tissue provides padding that absorbs shock and prevents damage to the feet as well as working in conjunction with tendons to move the bones of the feet and toes.
The nervous system transmits many signals through the tibial nerve to the brain to inform us of pain, pressure, and temperatures affecting the feet. In addition to this warning system, the nerves contained within the body are necessary for controlling every movement of the structures contained within the feet. Damage to this system can provide a plethora of additional challenges in foot care. For example, many diabetic patients develop a condition known as neuropathy that prevents them from feeling wounds and injuries to the feet. This allows many foot conditions to progress into more complex problems without proper treatment.
For any questions on the biomechanics of the feet contact our Medford, OR office at 541.776.3338, or schedule an appointment online with Dr. Evan Merrill to learn about treatments for any abnormal or faulty foot structures you may have.