Plantar flexion: Everything you should know

The extension of the ankle so that the foot points down and away from the leg is known as plantar flexion.

This would include pointing the foot towards the floor while standing.

The usual range of motion for plantar flexion is roughly 20 to 50 degrees from the resting position.

In this post, we look at the activities that cause plantar flexion, the muscles that cause it, and what occurs when these muscles are injured.

Flantar flexion function

plantar flexion
Plantar flexion refers to the position of the toes on the bottom of the foot. Plantar flexion is when you stand on your toes.

Plantar flexion is used in a variety of daily activities. Putting your foot down on the gas pedal in a car is a good illustration.

Plantar flexion is when you stand on the tips of your toes to reach a high shelf. Ballet dancers who perform en pointe (on the tips of their toes) have a very wide range of plantar flexion.

Although these are the more visible kinds of plantar flexion, plantar flexion occurs with every human step.

Plantar flexion is required for the following daily activities:

  • jumping
  • running
  • biking
  • swimming
  • dancing
  • walking

Plantar flexion will be required in almost every sport. As a result, athletes are frequently encouraged to take the best possible care of their ankles and surrounding muscles.

What factors influence plantar flexion?

Plantar flexion appears to be a simple action, but it necessitates the involvement of a large number of muscles and tendons in the leg and foot.

The tibia (shin bone) and the fibula (a thinner bone that supports the tibia) are where most muscles are concentrated. Muscles connect to the ankle and the bones of the foot.

Gastrocnemius

The gastrocnemius is a muscle found in the lower leg that makes up half of the calf muscle. It begins at the back of the knee and ends at the heel with the Achilles tendon.

In plantar flexion, the gastrocnemius is one of the muscles that does the majority of the work.

Soleus

This is a large and powerful muscle that goes beneath the gastrocnemius and starts behind the knee. At the heel, it joins the gastrocnemius to form the Achilles tendon.

The soleus muscle is in charge of pushing off the ground. Any movement that involves plantar flexion necessitates this.

Plantaris

The plantaris muscle begins immediately above the gastrocnemius, behind the knee. The plantaris tendon connects directly to the heel bone and goes beneath both the soleus and gastrocnemius muscles.

This muscle flexes both the ankle and knee joints in conjunction with the Achilles tendon, allowing a person to stand on their toes or point their foot in plantar flexion.

Long flexor hallucis

This is one of the leg’s three deep muscles. It runs from the rear of the fibula to the big toe, passing through the ankle and along the sole of the foot.

The flexis hallucis longus is a muscle that aids in ankle plantar flexion and curling the toes. It is important for walking and balancing, particularly on tiptoe.

Flexor digitorum longus

This is another deep muscle in the leg. The flexor digitorium longus begins near the soleus muscle on the rear of the tibia. The muscle fibers join together form a tendon that runs from the ankle to the bottom of the foot.

Except for the big toe, the flexor digitorium longus joins to every toe. This muscle is responsible for the ability to flex the toes. It is utilized in plantar flexion to support the arch of the foot.

Tibialis posterior

The third deep muscle in the leg is the tibialis posterior. It is the most central leg muscle and is responsible for stabilizing the lower leg.

It is joined to the tibia and fibula via the interosseous membrane (which divides all bones) in the leg. The tibialis posterior tendon stretches out to connect with the metatarsals, the five long bones at the top of the foot. The medial, middle, and lateral cuneiform bones, as well as the navicular bones, are all connected to the tibialis posterior.

Peroneus longus

Tibialis posterior
The peroneus brevis maintains the stability of the foot, and any injury to it might impair plantar flexion.

The upper section of the fibula is where the peroneus longus muscle begins. It runs the length of the fibula bone and connects to the medial cuneiform and first metatarsal bones, which are the bones below the big toe’s large “knuckle.”

In the middle foot, the tibialis posterior and the peroneus longus work together to provide support for the weight-bearing arches. When standing or raising onto the toes, these two muscles assist in keeping the ankle stable.

Peroneus brevis

Just beneath the peroneus longus is the peroneus brevis. The tendon begins in the fibula’s shaft and extends to the foot, where it connects to the little toe’s metatarsal. The peroneus longus and peroneus brevis work together to stabilize the foot.

In plantar flexion, all of these muscles and tendons work together to keep the body balanced and steady. When one of these muscles or tendons becomes weaker, the entire system becomes impaired, resulting in damage and a decreased range of motion.

Injuries

The range of motion of the foot will be limited if any of the muscles supporting the act of plantar flexion are injured. One of the most prevalent methods to severely limit plantar flexion is through an ankle injury.

The ankle joint is one of the most complicated joints in the body. It has a large range of motion that allows it to support the body in the most difficult situations, such as hiking or leaping on uneven ground. It accomplishes this while also safeguarding important ligaments, arteries, and nerves.

When the ankle is wounded, inflammation reduces the range of motion of the foot, which helps to prevent further injury. This can severely limit plantar flexion, to the point where a person is unable to move their foot.

The severity of an ankle injury can range from minor sprains to serious fractures. The therapy will be determined by the severity of the injury.

Treatment

 ice and compression
Ice and compression can be used to treat injuries that affect plantar flexion.

The sort of harm that a person has experienced determines how they are treated. Mild ankle sprains don’t necessitate the use of casts or splints. Instead, the RICE approach (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) might be used to treat them.

More serious sprains, tendon injuries, and some fractures will necessitate the use of a splint or cast to keep the ankle in place. An individual will be unable to put weight on their foot or ankle at this time.

Surgery is usually indicated if the ankle is not stable where the fracture has occurred. This may entail inserting a plate or screws into the ankle’s bones to keep it in place while it heals. A fracture normally takes at least six weeks to heal.

Physical treatment and exercise will be required for any types of ankle, leg, or foot injuries that affect plantar flexion in order to strengthen the muscles and tendons and prevent them from further injury. Failure to perform these workouts puts people at danger of future injuries.

Injury prevention

Regular mobility and strength work is the first step in preventing injuries in the muscles and joints that control plantar flexion. There are a variety of exercises that may be done to strengthen the muscles and tendons involved in plantar flexion and protect the ankle.

Toe rises, for example, are a simple workout that can help you gain strength. Low-impact exercises like swimming and biking can help the legs, feet, and ankles become more flexible and strong.

Injuries can also be avoided by taking the proper steps. Incorrect walking patterns can lead to injuries in the long run. This can involve walking in high heels or shoes that aren’t properly suited.

If a person has a tendency to overcorrect or step wrongly, taking intentional steps can help. Walking barefoot for at least 30 minutes a day, allowing the feet to walk in their natural position, can also help.

A visit to a podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon can assist anyone who suffers from frequent injuries or has limited plantar flexion in finding a remedy. This information can assist a doctor better understand a patient’s walking pattern and determine whether they would benefit from certain shoes or activities.

Sources

  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3103112/
  • http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00391
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24105612
  • https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318249n
  • http://www.gla.ac.uk/ibls/US/fab/tutorial/anatomy/anklet.html