What Is the Purpose of the Metatarsal Bones?

purpose-metatarsal-bones Credit: SEBASTIAN KAULITZKI/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

Metatarsal bones bear most of the weight in the foot when humans walk. There are five metatarsal bones, numbered one through five. These structures provide the shape of the arch in the foot. The first metatarsal is shorter than the other four, and the remaining metatarsals are the same length.

Metatarsal bones connect the toes to the heel and run most of the length of the foot. They work with ligaments and tendons to help the foot move properly. As humans step with their legs and feet, weight is transferred from the toes to the metatarsals.

Metatarsal bones are the most commonly broken bones in the foot. An acute fracture of a metatarsal is usually from a sudden jolt to the foot such as dropping a heavy object, falling or a sports injury. Stress fractures occur due to overuse or repetitive motion. Immobilization of the foot is one way to heal metatarsal injuries. Soccer players often have metatarsal pain after playing their sport for a long time.

These five bones connect to toes at the knuckle and then at the tarsal bones near the heel. Without metatarsal bones, humans would be unable to walk upright, jump or run. Most mammals that walk have these types of structures in their feet so they can ambulate properly.