Understanding Your Biomechanics: How Feet and Ankles Work

If you are a hands-on person who learns best when you can tinker around and take things apart to see how they work, you might be interested in learning more about biomechanics—the way your body moves during activity. We are going to “take apart” your lower limbs to explain foot and ankle biomechanics, so you can understand the source of your foot problems.

Deconstructing Your Feet and Ankles

Foot ExaminationThe ankle is the joint where your foot and leg meet. The two lower leg bones (tibia and fibula) sit on top of—and are connected to—the talus to form this joint. The ankle joint allows you to move your foot up and down. The talus in turn rests on and is connected to the calcaneus (heel bone). This subtalar joint allows foot movement from side to side.

Ahead of these joints is your midfoot, containing the navicular, cuboid, and three cuneiform bones. These work with the metatarsal and toe bones in your forefoot to form your foot structure, act as shock absorbers during your stride, and propel your body forward (or other directions) when walking.

This bone structure is surrounded by ligaments that hold it in place, tendons that connect it to muscles that make it move, blood vessels that feed the cells and carry away waste, and nerves that send information to and from your brain. Finally, all of these are covered by skin and nails that protect the other tissues from damage and infection. Quite a complex machine, isn’t it?

When Your Foot Machine Doesn’t Work As It Should

To understand the biomechanics of your feet, you need to look at your gait—how your foot moves as you walk. During a normal stride, your heel will contact the ground first—the strike. As your body moves ahead, your weight rolls forward onto your midfoot—the stance. The arch structure relaxes and rolls inward (pronates) for a moment so your weight is spread evenly over the foot. When your body continues forward, the foot rolls back to the outside a bit (supinates) and rests on the toes to push off—the heel lift. Finally, you lift the entire leg and move it forward—the swing—to plant the heel again. This completes one gait cycle.

Foot problems often result when weak muscles, tendons, or ligaments cause the foot to roll too far one way or the other (overpronation or supination). This can cause bones to get out of alignment and bear pressure in ways they weren’t meant to. It can lead to problems like bunions, toe deformities, metatarsalgia (forefoot pain), fallen arches, sprains, shin splints, and many other conditions that cause pain and limit your ability to move about. Because your entire skeleton depends on the foundation—your feet—problems there can extend all the way up to your hips, spine and neck as well.

You Need Help from the Foot and Ankle Biomechanics Experts

If you are experiencing pain in your feet or ankles, an injury, weakness, numbness, slow healing, or other problems, don’t wait to see if everything resolves on its own. The golden rule for podiatrists might be: “catch and treat it early.” There is no substitute for prompt action when something goes wrong with your feet or ankles. The sooner you get treatment, the easier and faster your recovery will be, and the less risk you will have of a small problem turning into a chronic, debilitating condition.

In the Denver area, call Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle Center at (303) 423-2520, or request an appointment through this website. We have four locations to serve you in Golden, Wheat Ridge, Granby, and Evergreen. Our foot specialists—Dr. Matthew Paden, Dr. Brett D. Sachs, and Dr. Dustin Kruse—are expert at analyzing your biomechanics and determining the best treatment for your foot condition, from conservative therapies like custom orthotics to the most complicated surgery if needed.

For general information about your feet, click on the picture of our book—Step Wise: A User’s Guide to Foot and Ankle Health—and request a copy free of charge. We look forward to getting and keeping your feet and ankles in great shape!

Photo Credit: Alexis VIA pixabay.com