In this anatomy lesson, I’m going to cover the foot bones, which make up part of the appendicular skeleton. Each foot contains 26 bones: 7 tarsals, 5 metatarsals, and 14 phalanges. When you combine the bones from both feet, you get 52 bones out of the 206 bones in the average adult skeleton. The bones in your feet make up a whopping 25% of the bones of your body!
Toe Bones (Phalanges)
Let’s start with the toes and work our way back. The bones that make up your toes are called phalanges (singular: phalanx), just like the finger bones. There are three phalanges for each toe, except for the big toe (also called great toe or hallux), which has only two phalanges.
The toes (or digits) are numbered one through five:
- The great toe (also called hallux) is digit number one, just as the thumb (pollex) is number one on the hand. It has only a distal and proximal phalanx.
- The long toe is digit number two.
- The middle toe is digit number three.
- The ring toe is digit number four.
- The pinky toe is digit number five.
As with the fingers, the phalanges of the foot are named after directional terms. The distal phalanx is always furthest away from your ankle. I have a video on directional terms if you need to refresh on it, but I like to remember this phrase: the pistol is distal to the upper arm. That helps me remember distal vs proximal.
The middle phalanx is called middle, so that’s easy to remember. The one closes to the ankle is the proximal phalanx.
Metatarsal Bones (Metatarsus) of the Foot
Proximal to the phalanges are the five metatarsal bones, which together make up the metatarsus of the foot.
The prefix “meta” means “beyond or after.” They are beyond the tarsals, which I’ll cover in a moment.
Again, these bones are numbered 1-5, with one being on the side of your big toe, and five being on the side of your pinky toe.
People sometimes confuse the metacarpals and carpals of the hand with the metatarsals and tarsals of the foot. Remember: The tarsals are near your toes, and you use your carpals to steer your car.
Tarsal Bones (Tarsus) of the Foot
Finally, we have the seven bones that make up the tarsus of the foot, which is the posterior region. If you watch sports, you might have heard of the North Carolina Tar Heels. That helps me remember that the tarsals are those bones that make up the heel region (posterior portion) of the foot bones.
- Talus – The talus is the ankle bone at the superior portion of the posterior tarsus, and it gets its name from a Latin word that means ankle. It articulates (forms a joint) with the tibia and fibula bones of the lower leg, as well as other tarsal bones. The tibia and fibula bones form that bony part on each side of your ankle, called the medial and lateral malleolus.
- Calcaneus – Inferior to the talus bone is the calcaneus bone, which forms the heel of the foot and is larger than any other tarsal bone.
- Navicular – The navicular bone gets its name from a Latin word that means “little ship.” This bone is always located on the same side as the big toe (medial side).
- Cuneiforms (lateral, intermediate, and medial) – There are three cuneiform bones of the tarsus that begin at the medial (big toe) side of the foot. They get their name from a Latin word that means “wedge-shaped.” Medial means toward the midline or middle of the body, and this bone is going to be on the same side of the foot as the big toe. Intermediate means middle, and that’s where this cuneiform bone is located. And lateral means at or toward the side of the body or away from that midline, which is where this cuneiform bone is located.
- Cuboid – On the lateral side of the foot we have the cuboid bone. As the name suggests, it has a cube shape to it.
Tarsal Foot Bone Mnemonic
Here’s a quick mnemonic to help you remember the seven bones of the tarsus. Although there are seven bones, the cuneiform bones are named after directional terms, so you only need to remember the cuneiform part.
Here’s the mnemonic for the tarsals: Tall Camels Never Consume Cubes.
- Tall (Talus)
- Camels (Calcaneus)
- Never (Navicular)
- Consume (3 Cuneiforms– medial, intermediate, lateral)
- Cubes (Cuboid)
I reduced the cuneiform bones to one mnemonic word to make it easier on you to remember, as they are all cuneiform bones, but they have a directional term in front of it (i.e. medial/intermediate/lateral cuneiform)
Free Quiz and More Anatomy Videos
Ready to test your knowledge? Take our free (and quick!) foot bones anatomy quiz. Also, you might want to watch more of our anatomy and physiology lectures on YouTube, or check our anatomy and physiology notes.