Equinus Foot Condition

The ankle joint connects the leg to the foot. It is formed by three separate bones, the tibia, fibula and talus. The shinbone (tibia) supports most of a person’s weight when standing. The outer bone (fibula) is the smaller bone of the lower leg. A small, irregular-shaped foot bone (talus) connects the tibia and fibula. Acting as a hinge, these bones form the ankle. The ankle joint allows movement such as walking, running and jumping, and also contributes to lower limb stability.

The ankle is reinforced by ligaments which connect bone to bone. Ligaments have a mildly elastic structure that allows them to stretch, within their limits, and then return to their normal positions. Ligaments protect the ankle from abnormal movements—especially twisting, turning and rolling of the foot.


A person with equinus has a limited range of ankle motion and lacks the flexibility needed to bring the top of the foot upward, toward the shin. It may be either congenital or acquired, and occurs equally in both men and women.  Equinus can be due to several different reasons including the following:

• bony block between the talus and distal tibia (osseous equinus);
• contracture or tightness of the soleus muscle (inner calf muscle);
• contracture or tightness of the soleus and gastrocnemius muscles (gastroc-soleal equinus);
• isolated tightness of the gastrocnemius muscles (outer calf muscle); and
• compensatory loss of ankle joint range of motion for some other condition such as pes cavus (pseudoequinus).


People with equinus often develop ways to compensate for their limited ankle motion. Depending on how a patient compensates for the inability to bend properly at the ankle, a variety of other foot conditions can develop, such as:

  • Plantar Fasciitis
  • Calf cramping
  • Achilles Tendinitis
  • Metatarsalgia (pain and/or callusing on the ball of the foot)
  • Flatfoot
  • Arthritis of the midfoot (middle area of the foot)
  • Pressure sores on the ball of the foot or the arch
  • Bunions and hammertoes
  • Ankle pain
  • Shin splints
  • Sesamoiditis
  • Hallux valgus
  • hallux rigidus
  • Hammer toes


Nonsurgical Treatment of Equinus

Some nonsurgical treatment strategies are aimed at relieving the symptoms and conditions associated with equinus. Treatment for the equinus itself may include one or more of the following options.

  • Heel lifts—Placing heel lifts inside the shoes or wearing shoes with a moderate heel may reduce symptoms by taking stress off the Achilles tendon and compensating for the restricted movement of the ankle joint. The joint is meant to have about fourteen degrees of movement ideally, so say it has only four degrees of movement, adding a ten degree heel lift helps compensate for the missing degrees of movement .
  • Arch supports or orthotic devices—Custom orthotic devices that fit into the shoe are often prescribed to ensure that weight is distributed properly, and to help control muscle/tendon imbalance. Again these devices will most likely include a heel lift.
  • Physical therapy—To help remedy muscle tightness, deep tissue massage of calf muscles along with a stretching program for the calf muscles are recommended.


For a quick simple video describing the condition click   here


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Posterior ankle impingement physiotherapyPosterior ankle impingement is a condition characterised by tissue damage at the back of
the ankle joint due to compression of these structures. This occurs when the foot and ankle
are pointed maximally away from the body (plantarflexion – figure 1. ). It may occur when
compressive forces are too repetitive and/or too forceful. This can occurs in the presence of
ankle swelling or bony anomalies, such as additional bone, a condition known as an “os
trigonum”. Posterior ankle impingement is most commonly found in gymnasts, ballet
dancers, and footballers, because they regularly maximally plantarflex their ankles during
their activities. The condition can also occur due to inadequate rehabilitation of an acute
ankle injury (ie. ankle sprain).

Mechanism of Injury

Posterior ankle impingement may develop due to an acute traumatic plantar hyperflexion
event, such as an ankle sprain. It may also occur as a result of repetitive low-grade trauma
associated with plantar hyperflexion, say like in case of a female ballet dancer. It is
important to differentiate between these two, because the latter, that is posterior
impingement from overuse, has a better prognosis.
The anatomy of the posterior ankle is a key factor in the occurrence of posterior
impingement syndrome . The more common causes of the condition are osseous in nature,
such as the os trigonum, an elongated posterolateral tubercle of the talus (known as
Stieda’s process), a downward sloping posterior lip of the tibia, an osteophyte from the
posterior distal tibia , or a prominent posterior process of the calcaneus. However, posterior
impingement can also be soft tissue related, as with a thickened posterior joint capsule ,
post-traumatic scar tissue, post-traumatic calcifications of the posterior joint capsule, or
loose bodies in the posterior part of the ankle joint. Symptoms for all of these conditions
relate to physical impingement of osseous or soft tissue structures, resulting in painful
limitation of the full range of ankle movement.
The most common cause ''os trigonum'' is an extra (accessory) bone that sometimes
develops behind the ankle bone (talus). The mineralized os trigonum appears between the
ages of 7 and 13 years and usually fuses with the talus within 1 year, forming the trigonal
(Stieda) process. It may remain as a separate ossicle in 7-14% of patients, and is often
bilateral(in both ankles). An os trigonum can be a focus of osseous abutment against other
structures. Pain can also be caused by disruption of the cartilaginous synchondrosis
between the os trigonum and the lateral talar tubercle as a result of repetitive microtrauma
and chronic inflammation.
In the case of soft tissue impingement it usually results from scarring and fibrosis associated
with synovial, capsular, or ligamentous injury ie. bad ankle sprain. It is thought that this
type of manifestation usually usually occurs when a significant soft-tissue component
forms. The soft-tissue component can consist of synovial thickening throughout the
posterior capsule or be more focal, involving the posterior intermalleolar or talofibular ligament. The flexor hallucis longus tendon runs in the groove between the lateral and
medial processes of the talus and can also be injured in posterior impingement, resulting in


Signs and symptoms

Patients who have posterior impingement complain of chronic deep posterior ankle pain
worsened by forced plantar flexion or push-off forces as occur during activities such as
ballet dancing, jumping, or running downhill. In some patients, forced dorsiflexion(opposite
to plantarflexion) is also painful. Physical examination reveals pain on palpation over the posterolateral talar process, which is located along the posterolateral aspect of the ankle between the Achilles and peroneal
tendons . Passive forced plantar flexion results in pain and often a grinding
sensation as the posterolateral talar process is entrapped between the posterior tibia and


Diagnosis of posterior ankle impingement

A thorough examination by an experienced practitioner may be all that is necessary to
diagnose posterior ankle impingement. Further investigations such as an X-ray, MRI, CT scan
or Ultrasound may help confirm diagnosis.


Physiotherapist in Tralee, Co. Kerry………..Phone 0867700191 to make an appointment or discuss your condition.