Muscles in the Ankle

By Kelly Rocheleau, MPT, CSCS

Muscles in the Ankle

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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

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 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.

JOI Fracture and Injury Care

JOI Physicians are currently offering ASAP fracture and injury care. This is a new option for patients who would like to avoid the emergency room if they have suffered a fracture or soft tissue injury. To learn more about this service, read this article about fracture and injury care. Make an appointment by calling (904)JOI-2000.

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By: Kelly Rocheleau, MPT, CSCS

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