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Lumbrical muscles of the foot

Recommended video: Central plantar muscles of the foot (3D) [18:29]
Anatomy and functions of the central muscles of the foot shown with 3D model animation.
Lumbrical muscles of foot (Musculi lumbricales pedis)

Lumbricals are the four small muscles found in the sole of the foot. Following the classification of plantar foot muscles into four layers (superficial to deep), the lumbricals and quadratus plantae comprise the second layer. However, when the plantar muscles are studied by groups (medial to lateral), lumbricals are described as the muscles of the central plantar compartment.

Lumbrical muscles flex and adduct the lateral four toes at the metatarsophalangeal joints and extend them at the interphalangeal joints. These actions contribute to the biomechanical balance of the foot during walking.

This article will teach you about the anatomy and function of the lumbrical muscles of the foot.

Key facts about the lumbrical muscles of the foot
Origin  Tendons of flexor digitorum longus
Insertion Medial bases of proximal phalanges and extensor expansion of digits 2-5
Function Metatarsophalangeal joints 2-5: Toe flexion, Toes adduction;
Interphalangeal joints 2-5: Toes extension
Innervation Lumbrical 1: Medial plantar nerve (S2,S3); 
Lumbricals 2-4: Lateral plantar nerve (S2-S3)
Blood supply Lateral plantar artery, plantar metatarsal arteries, dorsal metatarsal arteries, dorsal digital arteries
  1. Origin and insertion
  2. Relations
  3. Innervation
  4. Blood supply
  5. Function
  6. Sources
+ Show all

Origin and insertion

The lumbricals originate from the tendons of flexor digitorum longus muscle, which is why they are sometimes referred to as the accessory muscles of the flexor digitorum longus. From medial to lateral, they are numbered I-IV.

The first lumbrical muscle originates from the medial side of the first flexor digitorum longus tendon, i.e. the one intended for the second toe. The rest of lumbricals have two origin points, arising from the facing surfaces of two adjacent tendons of the flexor digitorum longus, respectively.

From the point of origin, each lumbrical muscle passes anteriorly, plantar to the deep transverse metatarsal ligaments. The muscles bellies then turn obliquely upwards to attach on the base of the proximal phalanges of second to fifth digits and their extensor expansions.


Upon originating from the tendons of flexor digitorum longus muscle, the lumbricals pass from the flexor to the extensor compartment of the foot. After providing the origin sites for them, the flexor digitorum longus tendons cross the inferomedial and lateral surfaces of the lumbricals before passing through the flexor sheaths of the second to fifth toe.

The inserting fibers of each lumbrical muscle are in relation to plantar surfaces of deep transverse metatarsal ligaments, which are the wide fibrous bands that connect the plantar ligaments of adjoining metatarsophalangeal joints.


Lumbrical muscles are supplied by the two terminal branches of the tibial nerve;

  • The first lumbrical muscle is supplied by the medial plantar nerve (S1, S2).
  • The lateral three lumbricals are innervated by the lateral plantar nerve (S2, S3).

Blood supply

Lumbrical muscles are supplied by branches of an anastomotic network between the lateral plantar and dorsalis pedis arteries called the plantar arch. The convexity of the plantar arch gives off the lateral plantar artery and four plantar metatarsal arteries that supply the lumbrical muscles.


By pulling the medial base of the proximal phalanx, the lumbrical muscles flex and adduct the toes at the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joints. Conversely, by pulling the extensor expansions of the phalanges, the lumbricals extend the toes at the interphalangeal (IP) joints.

These actions of the lumbrical muscles provide a balancing function to the foot. Flexion and adduction at the MTP joints oppose the extension of the long and short extensor of the toes and prevent hyperextension of the toes during the propulsive phase of gait. The extension at IP joints prevents clawing during gait as it opposes to the flexion produced by the long and short flexors of the toes.

To understand the functions of the lumbricals and other plantar foot muscles, check out our learning materials!

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