Ligaments Of The Foot

By Tim Wall, MS, ATC

Why are Ligaments in the Foot Important?

The quick answer is they make our feet stable enough to support our bodies.  The foot is responsible for supporting the weight of our body, allowing us to walk, run, and move easily with speed and accuracy. The foot anatomy includes bones, joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

Ligaments are soft tissue made of collagen and attach bone to bone.  On the lateral or outside of the ankle, three major ligaments run from the lateral malleolus of the fibula. Two of these, the anterior talofibular ligament and the posterior talofibular ligament, attach to the talus.

The third calcaneofibular ligament attaches to the calcaneus or heel bone. There are several more ligaments in the foot on the inside or medial side of the ankle joint. On the sole, you will find the plantar fascia, which helps to support the arch of the foot and provide balance and strength for walking.    You can also split ligaments in the foot into groups.  Including ligaments stabilizing the ankle joint, ligaments in the upper ankle, ligaments of the Subtalar joint, and ligaments in the foot.

Diagram of a human foot showing foot bones and ligaments that enable the foot to move. JOI Rehab

What Are the Ligaments in the Foot?

Ligaments Stabilizing the Ankle Joint

  • The anterior Talo-fibular ligament (outside or lateral ankle joint).
  • The Calcaneo-fibular ligament (outside or lateral ankle joint).
  • The posterior Talo-fibular ligament (outside or lateral ankle joint).
  • The Deltoid ligament (inside or medial ankle joint).
Diagram of lateral ankle showing bones and ligaments with labels. JOI Rehab

Ankle Ligaments

Upper Ankle Ligaments (Holding the tibia and fibula together)

  • The Anterior Inferior Tibiofibular Ligament.
  • The Interosseous Ligament.

Subtalar Joint Ligaments

  • The Cervical Ligament.

Foot Ligaments

  • The Lisfranc Ligaments.
  • The Intermetatarsal Ligaments.
  • The joint capsule of the Great Toe.

Other Common Injuries to the Foot

While the bones in the foot can break, other common injuries and conditions of the foot include the following:

  • Foot sprain.
  • Plantar fasciitis.
  • Ankle sprains.
  • Flat foot.
Foot bones diagram showing all the bones and ligaments of the foot and ankle. JOI Rehab

Illustration of the Bones in the Foot and Ankle

One of the most serious foot injuries is when tearing of ligaments occurs. Ligaments in the foot are strong and flexible, and they hold the bones throughout your body together. When a ligament in the foot tears, the resulting injury is often known as a sprain. Treatment depends on the severity of the injury. Treatment by an orthopedic surgeon or conservative treatment, which may include physical therapy.  This may be required to treat a torn ligament in the foot.

What are the Symptoms of a Torn Foot Ligament?

Torn ligaments in the foot can occur from a range of physical activities, from dancing to running to football, volleyball, and skiing.  Several common symptoms can arise from a torn ligament in the foot, including:

  • Swelling and bruising at the site of injury.
  • Pain and tenderness concentrated on the top, bottom, or the sides of your foot near the arch.
  • Pain intensifies when walking or during other physical activity.
  • Inability to bear weight on the injured foot.

Grades of a Torn Foot Ligament (I to III) 

Tears in the ligaments of the foot are graded from I to III. Minor sprains resulting from small tears to your ligaments are often referred to as grade I. These types of tears generally heal on their own within a few weeks. Larger tears to your foot’s ligaments or grade II sprains require more attention.  Grade II sprains usually require a splint or cast crutches for walking and can take up to eight weeks to heal. Grade III sprains are the most severe, where the ligaments in the foot are completely torn or detached from the bones of the foot. In those situations, surgery may be the appropriate option. Therefore, recovery can take a full year and require extensive physical therapy for the months following surgery.

How to Diagnose a Torn Ligament of the Foot

To correctly diagnose a torn ligament in the foot, your doctor will usually take imaging of your foot.  To confirm the location and severity of the injury and help you decide the correct form of treatment needed.

Related Articles:

Ankle Sprains

Ankle Physical Therapy

Tendons in the Foot.


ligaments in the foot/

bones in the toes/

foot anatomy/

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By: Tim Wall, MS, ATC

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