Feet are truly amazing. They enable us to walk and stand, helping us to live our lives each day. You might not think much about your feet – that is, until something goes wrong. A foot injury can cause you to reflect on just how important feet can be.
An estimated 75 percent of Americans will experience foot pain or injury in their lifetime.1 It’s no wonder foot injuries are common – your feet contain one-quarter of the bones in your entire body.2 Each foot is supported by 26 bones. Your feet also contain over 100 ligaments, muscles, and tendons.3 Ligaments are tissue that connects one bone to another. Tendons are tissue that connects bone to muscle.4
Types of Bones in Your Feet
There are three main types of bones in your feet. Here is an explanation of each type and its purpose:
There are seven tarsal bones, located in middle of the foot, in the heel, and in the ankle. The largest tarsal bone is the calcaneus. This bone sits at the bottom of your heel. Other tarsal bones include the talus, cuboid, navicular, and the cuneiforms.5 The main function of the tarsal bones is to support weight for walking.6
One problem that can occur with the tarsal bones is tarsal coalition. This condition happens when tarsal bones connect in an abnormal way. Some people are born with tarsal coalition, although it can be caused by arthritis or injuries.7
Your foot has five five metatarsal bones. These long, cylindrical bones connect your tarsal bones to your toes. The ball of your foot is a metatarsal bone. When you move, your metatarsal bones help you balance. 8
One problem that can occur with the metatarsals is metatarsalgia. This condition, also known as a “stone bruise,” often happens to runners or people who are overweight. It can also be caused by wearing the wrong shoes. Symptoms include pain and burning in the ball of the foot or toes. Icing and avoiding pressure on the feet may ease pain from metatarsalgia.9
Another problem that can occur with the metatarsals is metatarsal fracture. This is a break in the metatarsal bone. People who have metatarsal fractures usually need to wear a splint or cast for several weeks, until the bone heals.10
The last type of bone in the foot is the phalanges. These are your toe bones, which are similar to your finger bones. They are some of the smallest bones in the human body. Except for the big toe, each toe has three phalanges. The big toe has just two.11 Types of phalanges include proximal, middle, and distal.12 The purpose of the phalanges is to help with balance and movement.
Breaking a phalange, or toe, is a common foot injury. For a broken toe that’s not severe, doctors may tape your toe to another toe and recommend rest. In some cases, a broken toe may require surgery.13
Your feet are made up of many complex parts working together to allow you to move. Since they are under nearly constant pressure, feet are susceptible to many types of injuries. To keep your feet healthy, wear supportive shoes, and don’t overexert yourself. Take care of your feet, and they will keep you moving for life.