Connection lost. Please refresh the page.
EN | DE | PT | ES Get help How to study Login Register
Ready to learn?
Pick your favorite study tool

Deep posterior muscles of the leg

Grossly speaking, there are three major compartments of the leg: anterior, lateral, and posterior. The posterior group is strongly developed due to the consistent resistance to gravity while standing, walking, jumping, and so on.

For all of those actions, the muscles of the posterior compartment need to be strong and numerous. For this reason, the posterior compartment is subdivided further into superficial and deep muscle groups.

This article will discuss the anatomical properties that the deep posterior muscles of the leg share, and as well as the clinical states related to them.

Key facts about the deep posterior muscles of the leg
Popliteus Origin: Lateral femoral condyle, Posterior horn of lateral meniscus of knee joint
Insertion: Posterior surface of proximal tibia
Innervation: Tibial nerve (L5-S2)
Function: Unlocks knee joint; Knee joint stabilization
Flexor hallucis longus Origin: (Distal 2/3 of) Posterior surface of fibula, Interosseous membrane
Insertion: Base of distal phalanx of great toe
Innervation: Tibial nerve (S2, S3)
Function: Metatarsophalangeal and interphalangeal joint 1: Toe flexion; Talocrural joint: Foot plantar flexion; Subtalar joint: Foot inversion
Flexor digitorum longus Origin: Posterior surface of tibia, (inferior to soleal line)
Insertion: Bases of distal phalanges of digits 2-5
Innervation: Tibial nerve (S1, S2)
Function: Metatarsophalangeal and interphalangeal joints 2-5: Toe flexion; Talocrural joint: Foot plantar flexion; Subtalar joint: Foot inversion
Tibialis posterior Origin: Posterior surface of tibia, Posterior surface of fibula, Interosseous membrane
Insertion: Tuberosity of navicular bone, All cuneiform bones, bases of metatarsal bones 2-4 (Cuboid bone)
Innervation: Tibial nerve (L4, L5)
Function: Talocrural joint: Foot plantar flexion; Subtalar joint: Foot inversion; Supports medial longitudinal arch of foot
Mnemonic Muscles of the posteror leg compartment:  Great Plans Sometimes Tie Friends and Partners Forever
(stands for: (superficial group)  Gastrocnemius, Plantaris, Soleus; (deep group) Tibialis posterior, Flexor hallucis longus, Popliteus, Flexor digitorum longus)
  1. Anatomy
    1. Popliteus muscle
    2. Flexor hallucis longus muscle
    3. Flexor digitorum longus muscle
    4. Tibialis posterior muscle
  2. Mnemonic
  3. Clinical relations
  4. Sources
+ Show all


The deep muscles are separated from the superficial layer by a deep layer of fascia. The posterior muscles are natural antagonists to the anterior muscle group. Generally, their main functions are plantarflexion, inversion of the foot, and flexion of the toes. Additionally, the natural tension of these muscles, especially the tibialis anterior, supports the medial arch of the foot. Namely, the deep flexor muscles of the leg are:

It is common that muscles of a certain area will share innervation and vascularization. In this case, all muscles of this compartment are innervated by the tibial nerve, which is a branch of the sciatic nerve. When it comes to the vascularization, all of them except for the popliteus muscle, are supplied by the posterior tibial artery, which is a branch of the popliteal artery. A small exception here is the popliteus muscle, which is vascularized directly from the popliteal artery (a branch of the femoral artery).

Popliteus muscle

The popliteus muscle is the smallest of all four muscles in the deep compartment. It is also the most superior to all others, with its origin in the lateral condyle of the femur, in addition to the posterior horn of the lateral meniscus of the knee joint. The muscle extends downwards and medially over the posterior aspect of the tibia and inserts just above the soleal line on the posterior side of the tibia.

Wondering how you're going to make all of this information stick? Our muscles of the leg quizzes and labeled diagrams are the best way to consolidate your knowledge. 

The muscle forms the floor of the popliteal fossa and its tendon separates the lateral meniscus from the lateral ligament of the knee joint. This is the only muscle of the deep posterior compartment that acts exclusively in the knee joint.The popliteus muscle is essential for the processes of walking, standing up, and sitting down. During the closed chain gait cycle (with the foot in contact with the ground), it unlocks the knees by laterally rotating the femur on the tibia. On the other hand, during open chain movements (where the foot is not in contact with the ground), the muscle medially rotates the tibia on the femur.

Flexor hallucis longus muscle

This muscle originates from the distal two-thirds of the posterior surface of the fibula and adjacent portion of the interosseous membrane.

The muscle fibers extend through the posterior compartment of the leg and converge to form a solid tendon that passes behind the distal end of the tibia just before the ankle. The tendon then passes through a groove on the posterior surface of the talus, continues through the groove of the inferior surface of the sustentaculum tali, to finally reach its insertion on the plantar surface of the base of the distal phalanx of the hallux. The contraction of this muscle causes plantarflexion of the foot, as well as the flexion of the hallux. It also assits in inversion of the foot.

Flexor digitorum longus muscle

The flexor digitorum muscle has its origin on the medial side of the posterior surface of the tibia, inferior to the soleal line. The muscle fibers descend through the medial portion of the posterior compartment of the leg. The tendon of the muscle arises just above the ankle and enters the plantar portion of the foot by passing through the groove on the medial malleolus of the tibia. After this, the tendon deviates laterally, reaches the medial portion of the foot, and divides into four terminal tendons which insert on the plantar surfaces of the bases of the distal phalanges of the lateral four toes. The flexor digitorum longus performs flexion of the toes II to IV.

Tibialis posterior muscle

This muscle originates from the posterior surfaces of the interosseous membrane and adjacent portions of the tibia and fibula.

The fibers of the muscle descend through the posterior compartment of the leg, mostly covered with the flexor digitorum muscle laterally and the flexor hallucis longus muscle medially. The tendon of the muscle passes through the groove on the medial malleolus under the tendon of the flexor digitorum longus muscle. Then, it extends anteriorly through the medial plantar side of the foot and finally inserts onto the plantar surfaces of the navicular and  cuneiform bones, the bases of the second through fourth metatarsal bones, and variably the cuboid bone. The tibialis posterior causes inversion and plantarflexion of the foot. It also provides support for the medial longitudinal arch of the foot.


In order to remember all muscles that belong to the posterior leg compartment you can use the following mnemonic;

Great Plans Sometimes Tie Friends and Partners Forever

Superficial group:

  • Gastrocnemius
  • Plantaris
  • Soleus

Deep group:

  • Tibialis posterior
  • Flexor hallucis longus
  • Popliteus
  • Flexor digitorum longus

Deep posterior muscles of the leg: want to learn more about it?

Our engaging videos, interactive quizzes, in-depth articles and HD atlas are here to get you top results faster.

What do you prefer to learn with?

“I would honestly say that Kenhub cut my study time in half.” – Read more. Kim Bengochea Kim Bengochea, Regis University, Denver

© Unless stated otherwise, all content, including illustrations are exclusive property of Kenhub GmbH, and are protected by German and international copyright laws. All rights reserved.

Register now and grab your free ultimate anatomy study guide!