Ankle Muscles: Anatomy, Function, and Injuries

by | Jun 30, 2023

Until you injure your ankle, you probably don’t spend much time thinking about this remarkable joint. However, it is worth learning about because it is comprised of 10 ankle muscles, 4 bones, 3 ligaments, cartilage, nerves, and blood vessels. Known as a hinged synovial joint, the ankle is one of the more flexible joints in the body, thanks in large part to the muscles. Here’s what you need to know about your ankle muscles.


What are Ankle Muscles?

Ankle muscles are made of stretchy fibers that are attached to both your feet and your legs. They are necessary to move your foot down away from your body, such as when you point your toes, or stand on your tiptoes (plantar flexion). The ankle muscles also allow you to bend your foot towards your body, such as when you’re stretching (dorsiflexion). They allow you to turn the sole of your foot inwards (inversion), or the sole outwards (eversion).

 The muscles that support the ankle are in the front, back, and outside of your ankles, and connect to the bone via tendons. 

The 10 ankle muscles include:

  • Gastrocnemius
    The Gastrocnemius is one-half of your visible calf and is essential for walking, posture, and movement of your ankle. It joins the Soleus muscle to form the Achilles tendon, attaching the calf muscles to the foot. 
  • Soleus
    The Soleus muscle is one-half of your visible calf muscle that runs from beneath your knee to your heel. The Soleus joins the Gastrocnemius to form the Achilles tendon, attaching the calf muscles to the foot.
  • Tibialis Posterior
    The Tibialis Posterior Muscle is deep inside the back of the leg, protected by the Gastrocnemius and Soleus muscles. 
  • Tibialis Anterior
    The Tibialis Anterior muscle is on the front part of your lower leg, along your shin. This muscle is responsible for allowing you to lift your foot off the ground.  
  • Peroneus Longus
    The Peroneus Longus muscle stabilizes the ankle and allows for ankle movement. It is located on the outer part of the lower leg.
  • Peroneus Brevis (Fibularis Brevis)
    As one of the shortest ankle muscles, the Peroneus or Fibularis Brevis is vital for flexion in the ankle, allowing you to point your foot away from your body. 
  • Flexor Hallucis Longus
    The Flexor Hallucis Longus muscle is in the mid-calf and its tendon connects and plays a vital role in flexing the big toe, and arch of the foot.
  • Flexor Digitorum Longus
    The Flexor Digitorum Longus is a long, thin muscle that is in the posterior of the lower leg and supports ankle flexion.  
  • Extensor Hallucis Longus
    The Extensor Hallucis Longus is a long thin muscle between the Tibialis Anterior and Extensor Digitorum Longus. It crosses the foot, to connect to the big toe.
  • Extensor Digitorum Longus
    The Extensor Digitorum Longus is located on the front of the leg, adjacent to the shin. It splits into four tendons which extend into the four smallest toes. 

ankle muscles

Muscle Injuries that Affect the Ankle

Any irritation, inflammation, tear, or over-stretching of the muscles of the ankle can lead to an injury. Examples of these types of injuries include:

Achilles Tendonitis
As the largest tendon in the body, the Achilles connects the calf muscles to the heel bone.  This thick band is incredibly durable but not immune to strain and stress. When this tendon becomes inflamed, strained, torn, or ruptured, the pain will often be referred to both the ankle and the legs.

Muscle Strain
If any of the ten muscles of the ankle are strained, you may experience pain and swelling in the ankle, which may cause muscle spasms at the site of the injury.  A muscle strain is commonly referred to as a pulled muscle. This is not the same as an ankle sprain, which is an overstretching of the ligaments in the ankle.

Muscle Contusion
A muscle contusion (bruised muscle) can cause swelling, pain, and limited movement of the closest joint. If any of the muscles that meet in the ankle joint are bruised, you may experience ankle pain.

Tendon Issues
Peroneal and posterior tibial tendon issues occur on the outside and inside of the ankle respectively and are an extremely problematic issue causing long durations of symptoms often requiring short or long term bracing, PT, injections, shockwave and surgery.

Get an Accurate Diagnosis and Treatment for Ankle Pain in Eugene

Pain or weakness in the ankle needs to be properly diagnosed to prevent worsening injury or chronic pain. The experienced podiatrists and podiatric surgeons at Eugene Foot & Ankle can help.  Send us a message to request an appointment or call 541-683-3351 today.

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