What are the different parts of the foot?

Whether you currently have a foot condition you’re trying to learn more about or you’re just interested in how the foot works, familiarising yourself with the words we use to describe different parts of the foot is a vital part of the learning process. Having just a basic understanding of what is the sole and what is the dorsum can make it easier to communicate any problems you might have with a doctor or podiatrist. It can also help when it comes to measuring your feet for a new pair of shoes.

What are the different parts of the foot called?

If you’ve never thought about it before, it’s not always obvious that knowing the different terms for parts of your foot is useful. After all, when you visit a doctor in person, it’s easy enough to simply point to the affected area and let visual cues work their magic.

However, virtual appointments are becoming more and more prevalent, in which you may need to be able to describe your problem to your doctor. On top of that, in order to use resources such as NHS 111 and the NHS website, it helps to understand what these key terms mean so that you can understand the best course of action to take. While using phrases such as ‘the back of my foot’ can work, these are often generic terms that can cause more confusion than using something specific such as ‘my heel’.

So, let’s take a look at some basic foot anatomy.

What do you call the top part of your foot?

The top part of your foot is typically called the dorsum or dorsal region. This comes from the same word roots as dorsal, as in a shark’s dorsal fin. If you can imagine your foot is a shark, with the toes being its mouth and the back of your foot being the tail, the dorsal fin would jut out upwards from the dorsum – the part of your foot which faces upwards when you stand with your feet flat on the ground. The bony, arched part of the dorsal region is also known as the instep.

The dorsum extends from where the toes start at one end of your foot to where your foot meets your leg at the ankle joint. Unlike some other areas of the foot, the dorsum doesn’t have a lot of cushioning, which means it can be easy to injure yourself if you drop something on this area. When wearing trainers, for example, this area is usually covered by the tongue of the shoe, sitting underneath the laces.

What is the bottom part of the foot called?

When we talk about the bottom part of the foot, we typically mean the bit that is touching the ground when you stand up. This is known as the plantar region or the sole of the foot, which links back to the parts of shoes which interact with it. When you wear a shoe, the sole of your foot rests on the inner sole of the shoe – or an insole, for additional cushioning. The part of the shoe that touches the ground is known as the outer sole.

The sole of the foot extends all the way from the underside of your toes to the ankle joint. Where the toes meet the middle foot, you have a thicker, more padded area called the ball of your foot. This is what is touching the ground when you stand on your tiptoes. The extra padding helps to cushion this vital part of the foot as it absorbs the impact of walking.

What is the back part of your foot called?

The back of the foot is the place where your foot meets your leg in the ankle joint. On the sole of your foot, the heel is the backmost section, which has a touch of extra cushioning to help absorb impact. The heel then extends up into the ankle joint, forming a base for the column of your leg to carry much of your weight. If your foot’s posture isn’t correct, this can cause pain in other areas of your body, which is why some people wear posture-correcting insoles.

You may have heard of the Achilles tendon, or the Achilles heel. In Ancient Greek mythology, Achilles was a warrior who was made invulnerable by being dipped into the River Styx as a baby. The only part of him that could be injured was his heel, where his mother had held onto him, and he was later struck and killed by an arrow in this place. The Achilles tendon, which is instrumental in helping our feet move as they should, is named after him because it is located on the heel.

What is the arched part of the foot called?

If you’ve ever paid particular attention to the look of your bare foot when you stand, you might have noticed that the sole seems to arch away from the ground on the inner side of your foot. For example, on your right foot, this arch will be on the left hand side, and on the left foot, it’ll be on the right. This is what most people refer to when they talk about the arch or arches of the foot. An absence of this arch is known as having flat feet, which is common in young children.

What are the different parts of the foot?
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What are the different parts of the foot?
Whether you currently have a foot condition you’re trying to learn more about or you’re just interested in how the foot works, familiarising yourself with the words we use to describe different parts of the foot is a vital part of the learning process.
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About the author

Heather Smart

Heather began innovating offloading insoles and orthotic devices for diabetic foot ulcers as undergraduates. Her research provided instrumental data which sparked off further R&D projects relating to the ZeroSole Reliever insole, all of which has paved the way to developing numerous disruptive products, not just in the pharmaceutical retail sector, but in the medical sector too. As a founder, Heather is on a mission to make ZeroSole the go-to brand for innovative offloading (pressure-relieving) technologies that are effective, simple and easy to use.

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