The deep lying posterior tibialis is the most central of all leg muscles and is the key stabilizing muscle of the lower leg. So you would think it would have a much higher profile in all our movement classes. That is all about to change: it’s posterior tibialis’ time to shine!

Way back in my younger years as a dancer I complained to my ballet teacher that my Achilles tendon was irritated and my calves looked too big. She watched me point and go up on demi-point (heel raises) and immediately commented that I was overly focused on lifting my heel. The problem, she said, was that I need to access and awaken my posterior tibialis (PT). What? I had never heard of this muscle, but had heard of the anterior tibialis (think shin splints). To plantar flex my foot, she explained, I needed to focus on pressing my arch away rather than lifting my heel, and instead of hiking my heels up, focus on pressing the ball of my foot down into the floor.  Wow, what a difference! I accessed a deeper muscle to support my larger superficial muscles – and that muscle was the PT. My calf slimmed down and my inflamed Achilles tendon healed.

Posterior tibialis is one of the deepest muscles of the lower leg.

The PT originates behind the tibia and fibula (lower leg bones), and the interosseous membrane (the fascia connecting tibia and fibula). It runs in the deep posterior compartment (in the middle of your lower leg) and travels behind the medial malleolus (inside ankle bone). It inserts into the navicular bone and connects via fascia to the calcaneus (heel bone), all 3 cuneforms, cuboid and 2nd, 3rd, and 4th metatarsals. In other words, a lot of the bones in your foot!

Its main job is to help create the medial arch and to invert and plantar flex the foot at the ankle, helped by flexor hallucis longus and flexor digitorurm longus.

Without a healthy functioning PT your medial arch will fall (flat foot), and the heel bone will have a valgus deformity which will affect the whole chain up your leg and into your pelvis. Knee caps will look inward at each other creating knock knees – the list goes on and on.

Read Friday’s post for some YTU posterior tibialis helpers!

Watch our free Quickfix video for feet and ankles

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Pamela Forth

Pam Forth has studied many types of disciplines but her deepest love is dance. After receiving her Fine and Performing Arts Degree from Simon Fraser University and dancing professionally her career was stopped short by a foot injury. She became a certified Pilates teacher in 2000 and opened her own studio in Ottawa, called FORTH PILATES that same year. Continuing her studies and she received many certifications with a variety of wonderful teachers, to name a few: Dianne Miller (Pilates), Guy Voyer (Osteopath) and her latest Yoga Tune Up Level one in Ottawa 2013. She uses all the different modalities to have a person move and to see where there is freedom and where there may be some limitations. Her goal is to help that person to reach a joy in their body to move and be inspired by their own ability they never knew existed.

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Alissa Trepman

This article so interesting, and very helpful! Thank you for this information and thoughts on posterior tibialis and a nice exercise to think about, try and share– I look forward to incorporating it into the work!! Brilliant description of the importance and function of PT. Illuminated!

Daniel Zachrisson

I have been trying to figure out how to make my calves work less in a lot of my movements and I think the cue “pressing the ball of my foot down into the floor” has changed the game for me. I have been moving around trying this and it makes the movement so much different and so much powerful.
Thanks for the insight

Katherine

These are super helpful and specific cues to highlight the Posterior Tibialis: pressing the arch away from the floor, or pressing the ball of the foot down, rather than lifting the heels. I admit to neglecting my own PT in favor of the more superficial muscles. I’ll keep this is mind when working to lift my fallen arches!

Katharina

This is a great article! My movement “career” also started in Ballet when I was 7 and I have since been looking for ways to finally touch down with my heels in various Yoga positions (Downward Dog most obviously). I am to date to clear about what muscles and/or tendons, ligaments, fascial structures in my body hinder me from achieving this. Along the way, I have so far focused on the gastrocnemius muscle as the major posterior calf muscle when stretching. I very much appreciate your detailed article for pointing me to yet another direction, “focus on pressing the ball… Read more »

Michele

Thanks – I really like the cue ‘pressing the ball of my foot down into the floor’ – so simple to remember. When I hear ‘plantar flex’ my brain automatically thinks of lifting the heal. Your article is a reminder of how anatomy helps us better understand the reasoning.

Margaret

My mind is blown too! I had NO idea that my PT is responsible for my plantar flexion and arch lift – I am starting today – press my arch away

Amber Green

My mind is blown! I’m bringing this info to my osteo. I have been trying to figure out my tibial torsion and whether or not it is a bone thing (due to the effect of rotation on my lower leg when landing jumps in figure skating which warped the bone), or a muscular thing. I have been rolfing and noticed an improvement in alignment of my foot and pelvis and am wondering whether or not the posterior tibialis may be culprit. So excited to learn more about this!

Lesley Fantin

Just another layer uncovered! We all mostly know about the big calf muscle, the gastrocnemius on the back side of our lower legs. Then if we do a little more digging for information we learn about the soleus. This blog gives a great description of the even deeper muscles that lie here helping to plantar flex our feet. I just had a case of plantar fascitis and will think about activating the tibialis posterior in this way if symptoms return. It is also a great tip as a yoga teacher to help to strengthen students medial arches. So many people… Read more »

Sheena Nadeau

Thank you for the great explanation and visual on the tibialis posterior. Lifting from my arches instead lifting my heel really makes a difference! I can feel that deeper muscle activating. How cool!

Michelle Officer

What a great article! I am also a dancer and a such, always struggle with getting my students to properly proriocept the difference between the ball pushing versus heel lifting! It IS a huge difference once that shift is made!
beautiful article, thank you!

Maggie

I love the cue of thinking about pushing into the floor with the ball of the foot rather than lifting the heel. This is similar in nature to the cues for parasite lunges and marching and changing the emphasis really does help to highlight ingrained pattern that can cause imbalances over time. I will be thinking of my tib post while driving this weekend and assure it is not ignored…thanks.

Morgan Macgregor

What a great example of “your mind goes where the cues tell it to.” All the focus on lifting the heels means the attention (both mental and somatic) go to the heels, when of course the action comes from the muscles of the leg. In dance the focus is on moving the body through space, but some internal attention can go a long way to ensuring that not only are you moving the body through space with grace, but you’re doing it from a place is strength and stability. In terms of going up on the toes, my favorite thing… Read more »

Camille Morrs

This was so helpful, my Physical therapist told me that my right arch is collapsed and I’ve been trying to work on my feet and wondering which muscles have been effected but I hadn’t asked or taken the time to research This was a very helpful explanation on the Posterior Tibialis.

GarrettPlumley

Thanks for sharing your story and some great ques from your ballet teacher. I will definitely be teaching students to ‘press their arch away’ from now on!

Sophie D

I had forgotten about the role of tibialis posterior so this is a great reminder but what I love the most about your story is the awareness that lots can change by only changing our focus. Pressing the arch away rather than plantar flexing, ball of the foot down rather than heels up are great examples and the reminder to find other examples to share with my students and in my own athletic pursuits to minimize the buildup of tensions in areas like the calves, the shoulders, the neck, hips and low back.

Lisa Swanson

This information is invaluable for my YTY Therapy Ball Presentation on the leg. In addition, I teach Barre and will start instructing clients to press their arch away vs lifting the heels while pressing the ball of the foot down.
Great!!

Michelle Dalbec

Pamela – I LOVE the feet, am fascinated by the feet, think the feet are highly under emphasized in yoga and I am working on bringing that back. Thanks for this detailed article on such an important muscle to foot function. I love discovering how inter-related the body is. In your partnering article about taking care of the PT when you talk about doing the dynamic abductor lifts to help to strengthen weak abductor which can eventually contribute to that fallen arch … AMAZING! Thanks again.

Diane M

Pam – thanks for a great article. I was a ballerina also — but it was only in recent years that i really have closely explored the embodied science and function of some of the ankle /lower leg muscles. Funny how our “mess can become our message”. Hence my articles on Peroneals:) LOL. You were so fortunate to have an astute dance teacher. I really like the cueing and how it feels to push down on the balls of the feet instead of rising. Adding this awareness to my lower leg/ankle work!

Noreen

Thank you for the truly insightful and well written explanation on the importance and function of the posterior tibialis. I am now encouraged to research further on how strengthening the PT could also impact on conditions such as plantar fasciitis that many city dwellers of all ages suffer from.

Laurie Streff Kostman

It took a lot more effort – both physically and mentally – to push down to raise my heel rather than lift it up. I immediately felt the difference in my arch, and then up the lower leg. I also agree with Marla that I felt more balanced as well. Thanks for the great info!

Melissa

I have been trying to create a yoga class that revolves around footwork for ages, and never had enough material to really create a 60 minute class until now! I played around with your cueing, and added in some Yoga Tune Up ball work for the foot and trigger points for the calf and the class rocked. Everyone loved how different it out, and how different postures feel when alternative muscles are emphasized. Awesome context ! Thank you!

Macala

Wow!! What a difference it is to push down in demi point rather than lifting up. Thank you so much for this article.

Marla Brackman

Thanks for sharing this Pam. I have found that I’m very shakey when balanced on one foot with the heel raised (such as in the Stork Balance Test). After trying your suggestion to activate the Posterior Tibialis, it became amazingly easier. I guess I shouldn’t say “amazingly” as now I just learned how to support those larger muscles in the leg. 🙂

Barbara Treves

Wow Pam, I had never considered the importance of the tibialis posterior, having always had my attention drawn to it’s more well known cousin tibialis anterior which was particularly emphasized in my Pilates footwork series training. I see that you are a certified Pilates teacher as well so you know how often we plantar flex our feet. I tried lifting my heel per the cueing given to you by your dance teacher and I really felt the difference! I’m going to cue my students this way from now on and more importantly, I’m going to be able to tell them… Read more »