Bones in the Leg

By Tracy Wilcox, ATC

What are the 4 Bones of the Leg?

There are 4 bones in the leg. Adults will end up with only 206 bones, but babies are born with almost 100 more.  Bones don’t disappear as we grow older. Instead, these tiny bones fuse together to form the larger bones of the skeletal system. More than half (106 bones) are in your hands and feet.

Anatomy of the skeleton leg bones highlighted red. Human bone names labeled diagram. JOI Rehab

Leg Bone Anatomy

What are the 4 Leg Bones?

The Four bones that make up the leg are:

  • Femur
  • Tibia
  • Fibula
  • Patella

The leg bones are the strongest long bones as they support the rest of the body.

The tibia is the larger bone in the lower leg also known as the shin bone. It is the second largest bone in the human body next to the femur.


The femur is the large bone in the upper leg also known as the thigh bone. It is the longest bone in the body. The head (top) of the femur articulates or connects with the pelvic bone forming the hip joint, while the distal (bottom) part of the femur articulates with the tibia and kneecap forming the knee joint. By most measures the femur is the strongest bone in the body.

The femur is located at the top of the leg bone anatomy and is the largest skeleton bone in the human body. JOI Rehab

3D Illustration of Femur Bone Joints


The tibia is the larger bone in the lower leg also known as the shin bone. It connects the knee with the ankle bones. The tibia is connected to the fibula by the interosseous membrane of the leg, forming a type of fibrous joint called a syndesmosis with very little movement. It is the second largest bone in the human body next to the femur.

Leg bones anatomy of the skeleton leg. JOI Rehab

Tibia from multiple views


The fibula is the long, thin and lateral (outside) bone of the lower leg. It runs parallel to the tibia, or shin bone, and plays a significant role in stabilizing the ankle and supporting the muscles of the lower leg. Compared to the tibia, the fibula is about the same length, but is considerably thinner.

Image of the lower skeleton leg bones with labelled anatomy of leg bones. JOI Rehab

Bones in the legs


The patella, also known as the kneecap, is a flat, circular-triangular bone which articulates with the femur (thigh bone) and covers and protects the anterior articular surface of the knee joint.

The biggest joint in your body is your knee.  At the knee joint, three bones connect: your femur, tibia, and patella. Those three large bones require an equally large joint to connect them.  Excessive wear and tear between the patella and femur can lead to Chondromalacia Patella.

X-Ray image of the patella or knee cap. The knee cap is a common leg bone to injure. JOI Rehab

Picture of the knee cap

Protecting the Bones in the Leg 

Bones are designed to take a beatingBones can break but they’re designed to stand up to daily wear and tear. For example, some bones of the leg must be able to absorb two to three times your body weight in force. They must also be resilient. You take 1 to 3 million steps per year, so bones are built to take the constant use. Bones lose strength over time; but you can eat your your way to stronger bones.  Keeping them strong requires eating calcium-rich foods like dairy products, broccoli, and some fish. Exercise, especially weight-bearing exercise, helps keep bones strong, too.

The skeletal system can support you for a lifetime of movement. Taking proper care of it ensures you can move longer, experience more, and have greater health. Knowing how to properly care for your bones can go a long way to a healthy, fulfilling life.

By: Tracy Wilcox

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