What Holds You Up and Keeps You Moving
Your feet support your entire body. They let you stand, walk, jump, run, and even dance. When they are healthy and working well, you hardly think about them—but when they hurt, you can hardly think about anything else! What goes on inside your feet, both the good and the painful, has a lot to do with foot anatomy.
BONES - The Framework
Every structure, solid or moving, needs a good framework, and the human body isn’t an exception! Your framework is your skeleton. You have 26 bones in each of your feet, making up your heels, arches, soles, and toes. They fit together tightly enough to provide support, but flexibly enough to allow movement. The heel is made up of two parts: the calcaneus, which is the bottom of the heel; and the talus, which sits on top and connects to the leg to form the ankle joint. Creating the arches of the foot are the five tarsal and five metatarsal bones. At the end of the metatarsals are your toes, comprised of the phalanges. Two additional tiny bones, called sesamoids, support the joint at the ball of the foot. They are embedded in the tendon that holds the first phalange to the main metatarsal.
You notice when things are not right with the bones in your feet. Persistent heel or arch pain, or stiffness or trouble with foot joints, not only interrupt your daily life—they could be symptoms of real problems, like stress fractures, arthritis, bunions, or heel spurs. And when one part of your frame is weak, the rest of the structure is affected. You should never ignore that kind of pain. It could be your body signaling that something in its anatomy is malfunctioning.
TENDONS/LIGAMENTS: Your Internal Nuts and Bolts
Ligaments and tendons are strong, connective tissues that hold parts of the body together. Without them, your skeleton wouldn’t be able to move, or even stay together! Tendons attach muscles to bones, allowing the muscles to pull them for movement, while ligaments are responsible for attaching bones together. You find these connectors wherever two or more bones meet, so you have a lot of them in your feet. These strong, rope-like fibers hold the tarsals and metatarsals together and help support the foot. The different tendons in your feet attach to the top of the foot, the sides, the toes, and the heel, so you can point, flex, and wiggle freely.
Inflammation of the connecting tissues can be very painful. Constant discomfort along the top or bottom of the foot, along the ankle, or even in the toes, could be a problem in the ligaments or tendons—such as plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendonitis. Dr. Sanjay Patel will assess the foot to determine the most effective treatment to relieve and avoid injury and pain.
MUSCLES - Your Heavy Machinery
While the foot does have plenty of muscle tissue in it, most of its movement comes from muscles in your calves. These much bigger movers are attached to the foot bones by the tendons. Those inside the foot tend to be small, supporting the arch and creating some small toe movements. Tears or other damage to them aren’t just painful—they can impair mobility. Conservative treatment can make a difference, but if left alone for too long, these simple fixes might not be enough.
NERVES/BLOOD - Wiring and Supplying
Your feet are packed full of nerves and blood vessels. You only have to step on a sharp pin or a toy to be sure of that! The nerves and blood vessels in your feet mostly branch from a few larger nerves and arteries. The tibial nerve runs down behind the inside bump on the ankle and into the sole of the foot, with other smaller nerves running along the top of the foot. The post-tibial artery, a main blood supplier, follows the same path as the tibial nerve. They supply your foot with all of the information, nutrients, and healing it might need. Problems with them might signal larger problems in the body.
Because your feet support your entire body, and are made up of so many different parts, plenty can go wrong. Fractures, inflammation, swelling, stiffness, and more, can cause significant pain and limit the feet’s ability to carry you effectively. Many people don’t realize how necessary their feet are until problems arise. Taking care of your feet ought to be a priority to keep you up and moving, and prevention is as important as treatment! Dr. Sanjay Patel is dedicated to caring for all parts of the foot’s anatomy. His two Connecticut locations are both available for questions or appointments for evaluation and care—call the Milford office at (203) 876-7736 and the Hamden office at (203) 288-4055. Appointments can also be requested online.