• Amanda Evans

The Nature of Feet

By Amanda Evans

Love them or hate them, feet are expertly engineered to provide a smooth ride, withstanding almost any kind of terrain and sprung in such a way that hopping, jumping, and landing can be executed with grace.

I often wonder why, to some, feet are considered shameful appendages. Having practised Reflexology professionally for 20 years, I have seen and heard so many say how they don’t want to look at their own or anyone else’s feet, especially someone else’s! Yet without them where would we be?

There is no doubt that the advancement of prosthetics for those who have lost part or whole of their lower limb is amazing, and we see in athletes how blades are used to propel the body forward in such a way that mimics the spring action of the natural foot. They are remarkable.

So how did the ‘modern foot’ develop? Through evolution we have replaced the grasping

action of the foot, as seen in primates, and replaced this function with bipedal locomotion, in other words walking. Although some modern-day humans have very dextrous toes through necessity or fun, we generally use our hands, with our opposable thumbs, for more fiddly jobs! When an ape walks upright, weight is transmitted from the heel, along the outside of the foot, and then through the middle toes. A modern human’s foot, however, transmits weight from the heel, along the outside of the foot, across the ball of the foot, and finally through the big toe – this is a much more efficient way to transfer energy when walking upright.

Margaret Morris encouraged dancing barefoot outdoors where possible, to support the natural processes of the feet; she really understood how they were designed by nature and how we must use the Earth as a springboard from which to dance from.

Within the Health Play exercises for the very young, there are many, many exercises that encourage the strong development of the leg & foot muscles. Fairy Walking, Whales & Crabs, Tight Rope Walking to name but a few, all specifically designed to benefit the development of the Intrinsic and Extrinsic muscles required for perfect posture, balance and walking. Bringing in co-ordination and balance too, these exercises allow the child to experience a good variety of different circumstances in which the feet may be found.

So for those who are not already foot fans, I just hope that this article may help you to appreciate and find a new love for these feats (pardon the pun) of nature’s engineering.

Weight Distribution & Movement

The line of force (our body weight) runs from our head through the spine to the pelvis where it divides into two down each leg, through to the ankles, specifically the talus (ankle bone), and then again dividing the weight backward through to the calcaneus (heel bone) and forwards along the longitudinal arch of the foot. Weight is expertly divided between the FOREFOOT/MIDFOOT & HINDFOOT for balance.

The link between the leg and the foot, the talus (main ankle bone), is supported by and sits on top of the calcaneus (heel bone).

The talus also articulates with the tibia and fibula bones of the lower leg enabling eversion and inversion of the foot. Extrinsic muscles originate in the lower leg and run down and around the ankle to insert via tendons within the foot.

Intrinsic muscles are located within the foot, in fact there are four layers of muscles in the plantar (underside) of the foot.

Flexion (plantarflexion) of the metatarsophalangeal joints causes the toes to be pulled together and to bend towards the plantar aspect of the foot. This movement is performed by flexor tendons that pass to the digits, so we can point our toes.

Extension (dorsiflexion) of the metatarsophalangeal joints is performed by extensor tendons that pass to the digits. During active extension of the metatarsophalangeal joints, the toes are elevated towards the dorsal surface of the foot and are to a small degree spread out and pointed slightly laterally.


Found in the third layer of muscles, the oblique head of this muscle partnership can variably originate at the base of several bones, including the second through to the fourth metatarsals as well as variably attaching to the cuboid and lateral cuneiform bones of the tarsus. It alternatively may attach to the tendon of the fibularis longus muscle, a lateral leg muscle, its function being to produce the plantarflexion and eversion of the foot on the ankle joint.

Having two heads, the adducter hallucis’ transverse head is smaller than its oblique partner and originates from the plantar metatarsophalangeal ligaments of the third through to the fifth digits although this too can vary. Both heads of the adductor hallucis course towards the metatarsophalangeal joint of the big toe where they collectively form a common tendon with the flexor hallucis brevis which inserts onto the lateral aspect of the base of the proximal phalanx of the big toe. The adductor hallucis assists in flexion and adduction of the hallux (big toe) occurring at the metatarsophalangeal joint and assists in supporting both the transverse and longitudinal arches of the foot.

ANATOMY & FUNCTIONS of the Dorsal Foot Muscles

The extensor hallucis brevis is a short muscle located in the dorsum (top) of the foot, along with the extensor digitorum brevis, they both originate superolateraly (to the above side) from the calcaneus (heel bone).

The extensor hallucis brevis courses along the dorsum or the back of the foot, where it inserts into the base of the proximal phalanx of the great toe. The primary function of this muscle is to assist the Extensor Hallucis Longus* in the extension of the hallux (big toe) at the metatarsophalangeal joint.

The extensor digitorum brevis also runs atop the foot, splits into three and insert into the bases of the middle three phalanges of the second, third and fourth digits. They assist the extension of the second to fourth digits at their metatarsophalangeal joints with some movements also occurring at the proximal interphalangeal joints.

The extensor hallucis longus muscle is situated in the anterior compartment of the lower leg, it is a deep muscle until it emerges at the anterior aspect of the ankle. From here, the muscle ends in a tendon that passes through the dorsal aspect of the foot to its insertion point at the base of the distal phalanx of the big toe.

Its main function is the extension of the big toe, an essential element in walking and running. Working together with other anterior muscles of the lower leg, this muscle dorsiflexes the foot in the

ankle joint. When the foot is fixed on the floor as in walking or squatting, the muscle pulls the body slightly forward and prevents us from losing gravity and falling backwards.

MMM EXERCISES for the feet:

TRANSVERSE ARCH & TOE LIFT: to strengthen the intrinsic muscles of the foot, which support the transverse arch and to increase the mobility of the metatarsophalangeal joints.

INNER BORDER RAISING: is used as a corrective exercise for flat feet or weakness in the longitudinal arch.

FOOT PLACING: for accuracy of footwork and to mobilise the metatarsophalangeal joints.

HEEL RAISING: to strengthen ankles and feet, develop calf muscles by working the extrinsic muscles.

All the balance exercises assist with the EXTRINSIC muscles and the GREEK POSITION is marvellous at teaching the control of weight distribution and is strengthening to both calf and foot muscles. KNEE BENDING also strengthens the EXTRINSIC muscles.

Through a combination of ever altering adjustments to keep the body in balance, every part of the foot is constantly at work. The network of muscles and tendons from inner to outer foot and from hindfoot to forefoot look similar to tracks spilling out of a very busy international train station.

The ability to stand firm and feel grounded knowing that every possible part of your foot is connecting to the Earth in a perfect blend of suppleness and strength creates a sure foundation to any type of movement. Margaret really understood the importance of how healthy feet support a healthy posture, body and mind.


Margaret Morris BASIC EXERCISES / Sam Webster’s (Teacher of Human Anatomy YouTube Channel)

Image credits amphetamine500mg_info

Royalty-free stock vector ID: 121704193 Anatomy of leg and foot human muscular and bones system By stihii

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