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Central plantar muscles of the foot: want to learn more about it?

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Central plantar muscles of the foot

The plantar muscles of the foot are traditionally studied in either layers or groups. If studying by layers, we can organise these muscles into four primary layers:

The plantar muscles of the foot can alternatively be considered by medial, central and lateral groups. This article will discuss the central plantar muscles

Key facts about the central plantar muscles
Flexor digitorum brevis
Origins: Medial process of calcaneal tuberosity, Plantar aponeurosis
Insertions: Middle phalanges of digits 2-5
Innervation: Medial plantar nerve (S1-S3)
Functions: Metatarsophalangeal joints 2-5: Toe flexion; Supports longitudinal arch of foot
Quadratus plantae
Origins: Medial process of calcaneus bone, Lateral process of calcaneal tuberosity
Insertions: Tendon of flexor digitorum longus
Innervation: Lateral plantar nerve (S1-S3)
Functions: Metatarsophalangeal joints 2-5: Toe flexion
Lumbricals (4)
Origins: Tendons of flexor digitorum longus
Insertions: Medial bases of proximal phalanges and extensor expansion of digits 2-5
Innervation: Lumbrical 1: Medial plantar nerve (S2,S3); Lumbricals 2-4: Lateral plantar nerve (S2-S3)
Functions: Metatarsophalangeal joints 2-5: Toe flexion, Toes adduction; Interphalangeal joints 2-5: Toes extension
Plantar interossei (3)
Origins: Medial aspects of metatarsal bones 3-5
Insertions: Medial bases of proximal phalanges and extensor expansion of digits 3-5
Innervation: Lateral plantar nerve ( S2-S3)
Functions: Metatarsophalangeal joints 3-5: Toe flexion, Toes adduction; Interphalangeal joints 3-5: Toes extension
Dorsal interossei (4)
Origins: Opposing sides of metatarsal bones 1-5
Insertions: 1: Medial base of proximal phalanx of digit 2
2-4: Lateral bases of proximal phalanges and extensor expansion of digits 2-4
Innervation: Lateral plantar nerve ( S2-S3)
Functions: Metatarsophalangeal joints 2-4: Toe flexion, Toe abduction; Interphalangeal joints 2-4: Toe extension
Mnemonic Muscles innervated by the medial plantar nerve can be remembered as LAFF muscles
(stands for: first Lumbrical, Abductor hallucis, Flexor digitorum brevis, Flexor hallucis brevis)

This article will discuss the central plantar muscles

Anatomy and supply

Central plantar muscles

The central muscles of the foot sole lie within the central compartment between the muscles of the big and little toe.

The compartment comprises numerous short foot muscles in different layers. Together they form the central surface of the foot sole. Adductor hallucis is a special case because it is anatomically located in the central compartment of foot, but the muscle is functionally grouped with the medial plantar muscles of foot because it acts on the great toe (hallux).

Both the medial and lateral nerves (branches of the tibial nerve (L5-S2)) are responsible for the innervation of the central plantar muscles.

Flexor digitorum brevis muscle

The FBD originates at the medial process of the calcaneal tuberosity and plantar aponeurosis. Distally it divides into four tendons moving towards the second to fifth toes. At the proximal phalanges these tendons separate further into two smaller tendons, which finally insert along the medial and lateral aspects of the  middle phalanges.

(Innervation: medial plantar nerve)

Quadratus plantae muscle

This muscle runs from the medial surface of the calcaneus, and lateral process of the calcaneal tuberosity to the tendon of the flexor digitorum longus muscle.

(Innervation: lateral plantar nerve)

Quadratus plantae (left), lumbrical muscles (left) (inferior view)

Lumbrical muscles (I-IV)

The group of muscles originate at the tendons of the flexor digitorum longus muscle and insert medially into the bases of the second through fifth proximal phalanges as well as the dorsal aponeurosis/extensor expansions of the same digits.

(Innervation: medial plantar nerve (I), lateral plantar nerve (II-IV)) 

Plantar interossei muscles I-III

The plantar interossei extend from the medial aspects of the third through fifth metatarsal bones to the medial side and extensor expansions of the proximal phalanx of the same toes

(Innervation: lateral plantar nerve)

Dorsal interossei (superior view, left), Plantar interossei (inferior view, right)

Dorsal interossei muscles I-IV

The four dorsal interossei are two-headed, or bipennate muscles, found interposed between the five metatarsal bones of the foot.  

The first lumbrical inserts into the medial aspect of the base of the second proximal phalanx. The second through fourth lumbricals however, have their insertions along the lateral aspects of the bases of the proximal phalanges of the second through fourth toes, in addition to the extensor expansions of the same toes.

(Innervation: lateral plantar nerve)

Anatomical relations

The flexor digitorum brevis muscle lies superficially under the plantar aponeurosis and marks the largest muscle in the central compartment. The quadratus plantae muscle runs immediately deep to it. The origins of the lumbrical muscles are located at the distal end of the quadratus plantae muscle.

In comparison the plantar and dorsal interossea muscles lie deeper within the plantar aspect of the foot. 

In addition to the above mentioned muscles, the central compartment of the foot sole comprises the oblique head of the adductor hallucis muscle, the posterior tibial artery and vein and the tibial nerve.

Medial plantar nerve (inferior view)

However the vessels and nerves divide quite early into a medial and lateral bundle entering the medial and lateral compartment of the foot sole. Distally the branches meet again in the central compartment forming an arterial and venous arcade (plantar arch and plantar venous arch).

Function

The muscles of the central compartment fulfill various tasks.

  • The flexor digitorum brevis muscle is involved in flexion of the second to fifth toes and actively supports the longitudinal arch of the foot.
  • The quadratus plantae muscle does not move any joints but has a rather special function: By pulling at the tendon of the flexor digitorum longus muscle it shifts the tendon’s force effect to the longitudinal direction increasing the effectiveness of the toe flexion of the muscle.
  • The lumbricals, as well as the plantar interossei muscles flex and adduct the toes at the metatarsophalangeal joints (closing the spread toes). They also extend the toes at the interphalangeal joints
  • The dorsal interossei muscles flex the toes as well but in contrast cause abduction at the metatarsophalangeal joints (spreading of the toes). They also extend the toes at the interphalangeal

Central plantar muscles of the foot: want to learn more about it?

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