Muscles in the Ankle
By Kelly Rocheleau, MPT, CSCS
Muscles in the Ankle
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 in the Ankle
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
The extensor digitorum 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.
Lateral Muscles in the Ankle
The peroneus longus and peroneus brevis make up the outside or lateral part of the
ankle region. They both plantarflex (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
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 plantarflex the ankle, or rise up on 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
plantarflex 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 plantarflexes and inverts the ankle, which turns the sole of the
foot inward. This muscle is used when pushing down on car pedals.
Medial Muscles in the Ankle
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 vital in maintaining balance on rough surfaces. Walking
barefoot on an uneven surface is an excellent exercise for this muscle.
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