Anatomy of Your Toes

Your toes and feet take you places. You use them to stand, walk, run, and dance.

Foot anatomy is complicated, and more than half of the bones in the human body are in your feet. Feet have three main sections – the forefoot, midfoot, and hindfoot. Your toes are in the forefoot.

In the forefoot are five toes, or phalanges, and five longer bones, or metatarsals, that connect the toes to the midfoot.

Each phalange consists of three phalanx bones – the proximal, middle, and distal – with the exception of the big toe, which has only has proximal and distal bones.

The joint between the metatarsals and phalanges is called the Metatarsophalangeal Joint, or MTP joint. These MTP joints form the ball of the foot and help your toes flex and extend. The joint between the proximal and middle phalanx is known as the Proximal Interphalangeal Joint, or PIP joint. The PIP joint helps toes curl and grip.

All toes except the big toe are know as lesser toes. Lesser toes and their joints flex and contract by the action of muscles, tendons, and ligaments on the top and bottom of your feet.

When forces such as tight shoes or high heels bend your toes, conditions such as hammertoe and claw toe can occur over time. Your toes are forced to work harder in less space, and the resulting muscle and tendon imbalance causes muscles to shorten and toes to curl, and may worsen the condition.