Muscles in the Ankle

By Kelly Rocheleau, MPT, CSCS

Muscles in the Ankle

The ankle muscles used to move the foot and ankle help you walk, run, jump, and perform various other actions. In this article, we will review these muscles in the ankle and the actions they perform. The ankle’s muscular and ligament structure’s complexity creates many possible opportunities for injuries when the ankle bends beyond its normal range of motion.

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Diagram showing the different muscles of the human ankle. JOI Rehab

Illustration of the Ankle Muscle Anatomy

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 and clear the ground. This muscle is commonly involved in the injury of anterior compartment syndrome.

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 upstairs 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.

Muscle of the lower leg that support the ankle muscles. JOI Rehab

Muscles of Shin or Lower leg

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 foot’s sole outwards) the ankle. These muscles in the ankle work 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 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 tennis and basketball. The soleus muscle works 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 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.

Diagram of tendons anatomically located in the posterior ankle muscles. JOI Rehab

Tendons of the Ankle

The tibialis posterior is the deepest of all the muscles in the ankle. This muscle helps support the foot and plantarflexes’ arch and inverts the ankle, which turns the sole inward. This muscle assists with 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 assists with pushing off the surface in walking. The flexor digitorum longus causes the toes to grip and mold to the floor’s surface, vital in maintaining balance on rough surfaces. Walking barefoot on an uneven surface is an excellent exercise for this muscle.

Written By: Kelly Rocheleau, MPT, CSCS

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By: Kelly Rocheleau, MPT, CSCS

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