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Dorsal muscles of the foot

The muscles of the dorsum of the foot are a group of two muscles, which together represent the dorsal foot musculature. They are named extensor digitorum brevis and extensor hallucis brevis.

The muscles lie within a flat fascia on the dorsum of the foot (fascia dorsalis pedis) and are innervated by the deep fibular or peroneal nerve.

This article will discuss the origins, insertions, innervation, functions, and some clinical aspects about those two dorsal muscles of the foot.

Key facts about the dorsal muscles of the foot
Extensor digitorum brevis Origins: Superolateral surface of calcaneus bone
Insertions: Middle phalanges of toes 2-4
Innervation: Deep fibular/peroneal nerve (S1, S2)
Function: Distal interphalangeal joints 2-4: Toe extension
Extensor hallucis brevis Origins: Superolateral surface of calcaneus bone
Insertions: Proximal phalanx of great toe
Innervation: Deep fibular/peroneal nerve (S1, S2)
Function: Metatarsophalangeal joint 1: Toe extension
  1. Anatomy and supply
    1. Extensor digitorum brevis muscle 
    2. Extensor hallucis brevis muscle
    3. Dorsal fascia of the foot
  2. Function
  3. Clinical note
  4. Sources
+ Show all

Anatomy and supply

The muscle bellies of the dorsal muscles of the foot form the surface of the lateral dorsum of the foot. The deep fibular/peroneal nerve (L5-S1) is responsible for their innervation. 

Extensor digitorum brevis muscle 

The EDB originates at the superlateral surface of the calcaneus and divides into three muscle bellies whose tendons insert at the dorsal aponeurosis and the middle phalanges of the second to fourth toes.

Extensor hallucis brevis muscle

The EHB also originates at the superolateral surface of the calcaneus and inserts at the dorsal aponeurosis and proximal phalanx of the big toe.

Want to learn the dorsal muscles of the foot faster? Our lower limb muscle chart contains tables with the attachments, innervations and functions of every muscle. It's so easy to revise with! 

Dorsal fascia of the foot

The dorsal fascia of the foot is the continuation of the deep fascia of the leg (crural fascia).

Apart from the muscles of the dorsum of the foot, it incloses the tendons of the anterior muscles of the leg, the dorsalis pedis vessels (continuation of the anterior tibial artery) and branches of the deep peroneal nerve. In contrast the dorsal venous network (rete venosum dorsale pedis) lies above the fascia and is easily visible due to the relatively thin and low-fat skin.

For more details about the dorsal muscles of the foot, as well as other foot muscles, take a look at the following study unit:


The contraction of the extensor digitorum brevis muscle results in dorsiflexion, or hyperextension of the second to fourth toes, occuring at the metatarsophalangeal joints of the same digits. The extensor hallucis brevis muscle similarly causes dorsiflexion of the metatarsophalangeal joint of the big toe (MTP I).

Interestingly the dorsal foot muscles generally have no insertion at the little toe. This means that the little toe can only be extended by the extensor digitorum longus muscle only. The dorsal aponeurosis of the toes supports the effect of the dorsal foot muscles by redirecting the force line of their tendons to the longitudinal axis.

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