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Ankle Joint

The human ankle joint is a connection between the foot and lower leg. It is divided into:

  1. Upper ankle joint (tibiotarsal articulation).
  2. Lower ankle joint (talotarsal articulation).

Lateral view of the ankle joint

Lateral view of the ankle joint

Anatomy

Recommended video: Ankle joint
Bones and ligaments that form the ankle joint.

Upper Ankle Joint

The upper ankle joint is a hinge joint. Its main task is to enable dorsiflexion (stretching) and plantar flexion (bending). The upper ankle joint is composed of the three bones:

Hinge joint

Hinge joint

Lower Ankle Joint

The tibia and fibula form the so-called “ankle mortise” which consists of the medial and lateral malleoli. In the distal end of the ankle mortise sits the trochlea tali, the upper surface of the talus. This allows the articular surfaces to glide upon each other and assures the cartilage surfaces to move freely. The bony anatomy of the lower ankle joint (LAJ) is less complex as it basically consists of two parts. The following bones form the lower ankle joint:

The front part of the lower ankle joint (talocalcaneonavicular articulation) is an articulation between talus, calcaneus and navicular bone. The back part of the lower ankle joint is an articulation between talus and calcaneus and is called subtalar joint.

Subtalar joint - lateral view

Subtalar joint - lateral view

Function

  • The lower ankle joint permits two movements: pronation and supination of the foot – due to the fact that the axis enabling the pro- and supination stands at a 30° to 40° degree angle to the vertical leg axis.
  • The upper ankle joint permits the dorsiflexion and plantar flexion.

Plantar flexion (left) and dorsiflexion (right)

Plantar flexion (left) and dorsiflexion (right)

Ligaments

The anatomy of the numerous ligaments of the ankle joint is quite interesting. For, example the syndesmosis is a common localization for injuries. The syndesmosis ligaments consist of:

  • The anterior talofibular ligament on the ventral part.
  • The posterior talofibular ligament on the dorsal part of the distal lower leg.

An important ligament in the ankle joint is the deltoid ligament which is composed of the tibiocalcaneal, tibionavicular and tibiotalar part. It is located at the medial side of the ankle joint.

On the lateral side is the fibular collateral ligament (or lateral collateral ligament, LCL). This ligament plays a major role in the restriction of supination in the lower ankle joint. A supination trauma (spraining one’s ankle) is often caused by overstretching or complete rupture.

Overview image - ankle joint lateral and medial view

Overview image - ankle joint lateral and medial view

Summary

  • The ankle joint is one of the most important and mobile joints in the human body.
  • The talus articulates with both the tibia and the fibula to form it.
  • It is divided into upper ankle joint (UAJ) and lower ankle joint (LAJ).
  • Ligaments of the ankle joints include the syndesmosis ligaments, the deltoid ligament, and the fibular collateral ligament.
  • The ankle joint allows a wide range of movements (plantar flexion, dorsiflexion, supination of the foot, pronation of the foot,...etc).
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Show references

References:

  • Sobotta: Atlas der Anatomie Band 1; 20. Auflage, Elsevier Verlag
  • Netter: Farbatlanten der Medizin, Band 7: Bewegungsapparat, Thieme Verlag
  • Berchtold: Chirurgie, 6. Auflage, Elsevier Verlag (2008), S. 446-452
  • Benninghoff/Drenckhahn: Anatomie, Band 1, 16. Auflage, Urban & Fischer Verlag (2003), S. 386-390

Author & Layout:

  • Christopher A. Becker
  • Achudhan Karunaharamoorthy

Illustrators:

  • Lateral view of the ankle joint - Yousun Koh
  • Hinge joint - Paul Kim
  • Plantar flexion (left) and dorsiflexion (right) - Paul Kim
  • Overview image - ankle joint lateral and medial view - Yousun Koh & Paul Kim
  • Subtalar joint - lateral view - Yousun Koh
© 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.

Related Atlas Images

Ankle joint

Bones of the foot

Calcaneus

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