Glossary Of Foot Terms

Following are terms related to the foot and to preventive foot health. Please see the Foot Conditions section for details on specific foot problems.


Lateral rotation of the foot away from the midline.


Medial rotation of the foot toward the midline.


Movement powered by the legs and feet. In humans, walking and running are the two primary types of ambulation. True running is distinguished from walking or jogging by the fact that in the human running gait, for a split second, both feet lose contact with the ground.


The foot has four arches: the medial longitudinal arch (the largest arch, which runs forefoot to rear foot toward the inside of the bottom of the foot); the lateral longitudinal arch (which runs forefoot to rear foot along the outside of the bottom of the foot); the anterior transverse arch (which runs across the forefoot and is also called the “metatarsal arch”); and the posterior transverse arch (which runs across the rear foot).



Blood vessel that carries oxygenated blood away from the heart to the cells, tissues and organs.


Tiny blood vessels that facilitate the exchange of oxygen, carbon dioxide and other substances between the blood and the cells.

Clinically-tested padded sock

A padded sock that has been tested in one or more peer-reviewed, published scientific studies and has been shown to provide statistically validated preventive and/or therapeutic properties with respect to the skin/soft tissue(s) of the foot and/or other aspects of preventive foot health.

Dorsal surface

Top of the foot.


Movement of the plantar surface of the foot away from the median plane of the body.

Fat pad

Mass of closely-packed fat cells in the forefoot, rear foot and toes that protect the bones, muscles, ligaments and other parts of the foot during standing, walking and running.


Moving the foot downward away from the leg (plantar flexion) or upward toward the leg (dorsiflexion).


The particular way in which a person walks or runs.


Sudden and forceful contact between the foot and the ground during normal walking and running activities – equal to about 1.5 times a person’s body weight on each foot during walking, and 3 – 4 times a person’s body weight while running. Also known as “dynamic pressure.”

Integrated Approach

An approach to properly selecting and fitting footwear that is appropriate for specific activities and/or foot conditions and that can help prevent injury to the skin/soft tissue(s) of the foot. The approach involves properly selecting and fitting these components: padded socks, shoes, and any inserts or orthotics prescribed or recommended by a doctor or foot health professional.

See also "Integrated Approach to Selecting Padded Socks and Shoes that Fit"


Movement of the plantar surface of the foot toward the median plane of the body.


A flexible band of fibrous tissue that connects bones, mainly at the joints.


Tissue that when lengthened or contracted produces movement in the body.


A cordlike structure that consists of multiple fibers that carry impulses between the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and other parts of the body.

Padded sock

A well-made sock with a defined heel and toe for proper fit and  a cushioned sole made of terry fabric.

Plantar fascia

Located on the plantar (bottom) surface, it is the only fibrous tissue that continues to grow in the adult foot. It is a glove-shaped structure attaching at the heel bone and at the ends of the five metatarsal bones in the forefoot. Its main purpose is to provide support, flexibility and propulsion for the foot during weight-bearing activities.

Plantar surface

Bottom, or sole, of the foot.


Vertical force on the sole of the foot. Pressure is proportional to weight, and in a standing position the only pressure force on the feet is the body’s weight. Each foot carries 50 percent of the body’s weight. In a barefoot standing position, that pressure normally is equally distributed in the forefoot and rear foot. This can change when the heels are elevated, when one leg is shorter than the other, when standing on one leg, etc.

Preventive Foot Health

A proactive approach to wellness that focuses specifically on your feet as the foundation of mobility. Preventive foot health is necessary in all sports and activities, as well as in daily work and home life. It is a critically important practice if you have chronic health conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, and circulatory disease where small problems can turn into both limb- and life-threatening conditions.


Rotation of the bones in the midfoot inward and downward so that the foot tends to strike the ground on its inside edge during walking or running. Pronation is the natural inclination of the foot during walking and running; however, when the foot rotates too much, it is called “overpronation” and can contribute to discomfort and injuries to the feet, knees and legs.


Horizontal force on the foot that takes place during normal movement.  Shear force causes the different layers of skin in the foot to move in opposing directions, creating blisters or other lesions. Shear force is also responsible for the breakdown of the foot’s fat pads over time, as the fat pads absorb energy created when layers of skin and tissue move against the motion of the bones in the forefoot. For details, see the IPFH white paper.

Skin/soft tissue management of the foot

The practice of protecting the skin/soft tissue(s) of the foot from injury. One of the most important aspects of this protection is preventing injuries due to contact with the inside of shoes, characterized by the use of clinically tested padded socks fitted properly with appropriate footwear. For details, see the article An Integrated Approach to Selecting Padded Socks and Shoes that Fit

Skin/soft tissue(s) of the foot

The skin of the foot and the plantar fat pads that support and protect the ball, heel and toes. Both components must be protected to avoid foot problems (see Skin/soft tissue management of the foot).


Rotation of the bones in the midfoot outward with the arch elevated, so that the foot tends to strike the ground on its outside edge during walking or running. Like pronation, supination is a natural foot motion; but over-supination (often the result of a high-arched, inflexible foot <link to article Arch and Foot Types tk>) can contribute to injury.


Fibrous band or cord of tissue that attaches muscles to bones and/or cartilage.


Blood vessel that carries deoxygenated blood toward the heart.
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