Muscles in the Ankle

By Kelly Rocheleau, MPT, CSCS

Muscles in the Ankle Overview

There are many muscles in the ankle used to move the foot and ankle,allowing humans to walk, run, jump, and perform a variety of other actions. In this article we will review these muscles in the ankle and the actions they perform. The complexity of the ankle’s muscular and ligament structure creates many possible opportunities for injuries when the ankle is pushed beyond its normal range of motion.

Anterior Muscles 

The anterior muscles dorsiflex the foot, or move the toes up off the floor. The tibialis anterior is the main fleshy part of the outside of the shin. It is used in walking to lift the foot up and clear the ground. This muscle is commonly involved in the injury of anterior compartment syndrome. The extensor digitorus longus and the extensor hallucis longus dorsiflex the ankle and extend the toes, which lifts the toes off the floor when standing. These muscles are used when walking up stairs to make sure the toes clear the step. The fibularis (peroneus) tertius dorsiflexes the ankle and everts the foot, which lifts the lateral part of the foot off the ground.

The achilles tendon can be repaired with orthopedic surgery.

Illustrattion of the foot muscles and tendons on a white background

Lateral Muscles 

The peroneus longus and peroneus brevis make up the outside or lateral part of the ankle region. They both plantar flex (going up on the toes), and evert (lifting the sole of foot outwards) the ankle.These muscles in the ankle are used when walking on uneven surfaces. Physiologically there is a preference for the foot to invert, so these muscles also prevent excessive inversion.

Posterior Muscles in the Ankle

The gastrocnemius, soleus and the plantaris make up the posterior ankle. The gastrocnemius is the largest and most superficial muscle in the ankle. It is the main propellant in walking and running, and is commonly injured in sports such as tennis and basketball. The soleus muscle is used constantly in standing to maintain an upright position.  These two muscles join together at the heel of the foot to form the Achilles tendon. These two muscles work together to plantar flex the ankle, or rise upon the toes. The plantaris muscle is a small muscle lying between the gastrocnemius and soleus. It is absent in 10% of people. It works to plantar flex the foot as well.

The tibialis posterior is the deepest of all the muscles in the ankle. This muscle helps to support the arch of the foot, and plantar flexes and inverts the ankle, which turns the sole of the foot inward. This muscle is used when pushing down on car pedals.

Medial Muscles 

The flexor hallucis longus bends the big toe when you curl up your foot. This muscle is used to push off the surface in walking. The flexor digitorum longus causes the toes to grip and mold to the floor’s surface which is vitalin maintaining balance on rough surfaces. Walking barefoot on an uneven surface is an excellent exercise for this muscle.


If you have suffered an injury to any of the muscles or tendons of the ankle, JOI has orthopedic ankle specialists and a team of physical therapists to get you back on your feet. Call JOI-2000 or click the banner below to schedule an appointment today.

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By: Kelly Rocheleau, MPT, CSCS

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