The feet are supple structures of bones, joints, muscles as well as soft tissues which let us stand upright in addition to performing activities such as walking, running and jumping. There are 26 bones in the foot that consist of eight distinct types. These types include:
- Phalanges, and
Each foot consists of five metatarsals that are the long bones which lead to the base of each toe. The metatarsals are numbered from one to five beginning on the inside and then going outward (from big toe to smallest). Each metatarsal is a long bone which joins with the mid-foot at its base to create a joint called the tarsal-metatarsal joint or, alternatively, the Lisfranc joint.
On the whole, the first three metatarsals are more firmly held in place as opposed to the last two, although in some people there is increased motion related to the first metatarsal where it joins the mid-foot (at the first tarso-metatarsal joint). This increased motion may cause them to acquire a bunion.
The part of the metatarsal bone, which is long, is called the metatarsal shaft. The thick end of the bone that is near the toes is known as the metatarsal head (the metatarsal neck is between the shaft as well as the head). The head performs two essential functions:
- First, the heads of the metatarsal are the places at which weight-bearing happens.
- Second, the phalanges join the foot at the metatarsal heads. This takes place at a joint called the metatarsal-phalangeal joint. These joints are very flexible, which allows the metatarsal heads to constantly sustain the weight of the body as the foot shifts from heel to toe.
The phalanges are the bones of the toes which are connected to the rest of the foot by the metatarsal-phalangeal joint. The first toe, which is also known as the great toe due to its relatively large size, is the only one that consists of just two phalanges. These are called the proximal phalanx (closest to the ankle) in addition to the distal phalanx (farthest from the ankle).
The four ‘lesser’ toes (toes 2 – 5) are all made up of three phalanges. The phalanx that is closest to the ankle is known as the proximal phalanx. This articulates with the middle phalanx. The middle phalanx connects with the distal phalanx at the distal interphalangeal joint. An imbalance in the tendons pulling across these small joints of the toes will lead to deformity of the toe, such as claw toe.
There are three separate cuneiform bones that are in the mid-foot. The one which is located on the inside of the mid-foot is known as the medial cuneiform. The middle cuneiform is located centrally in the mid-foot and to the outside is the lateral cuneiform—all three cuneiform line up in arrow and then articulate with the navicular forming the naviculo-cuneiform joint.
The structure of the cuneiforms is similar to a Roman arch. Each cuneiform connects to the others in order to form a stable unit. These bones, along with the strong plantar as well as dorsal ligaments which connect to them, offer a good deal of stability to the mid-foot.
What is foot pain caused by?
Foot pain is generally caused by incorrect functioning of the foot. Shoes which don’t fit well can worsen and possibly even cause foot problems. Shoes which fit well and offer good support can prevent irritation to the foot joints as well as the skin. There are a lot of types of foot problems which affect the heels, toes, nerves, tendons, ligaments as well as joints of the foot.
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