The relation between geometry and function of the ankle joint complex: a biomechanical review

  • Roeland P. KleipoolEmail author
  • Leendert Blankevoort


This review deals with the relation between the anatomy and function of the ankle joint complex. The questions addressed are how high do the forces in the ankle joint get, where can the joints go (range of motion) and where do they go during walking and running. Finally the role of the ligaments and the articular surfaces is discussed, i.e. how does it happen. The magnitude of the loads on the ankle joint complex are primarily determined by muscle activity and can be as high as four times the body weight during walking. For the maximal range of motion, plantar and dorsiflexion occurs in the talocrural joint and marginally at the subtalar joint. In-eversion takes place at both levels. The functional range of motion is well within the limits of the maximal range of motion. The ligaments do not contribute to the forces for the functional range of motion but determine the maximal range of motion together with the articular surfaces. The geometry of the articular surfaces primarily determines the kinematics. Clinical studies must include these anatomical aspects to better understand the mechanism of injury, recovery, and interventions. Models can elucidate the mechanism by which the anatomy relates to the function. The relation between the anatomy and mechanical properties of the joint structures and joint function should be considered for diagnosis and treatment of ankle joint pathology.


Ankle joint Ligaments Articular surface Range of motion Biomechanics 


Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Anatomy, Embryology and Physiology, Academical Medical CenterUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Orthopaedic Research Centre Amsterdam (ORCA), Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Academical Medical CenterUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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