Background: It is difficult to determine the kinematics of the subtalar joint because of its anatomical and functional complexity. The purpose of the study was to clarify the 3D kinematics of the subtalar joint in vivo.
Materials and methods: Subjects were four healthy female volunteers. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) sequences were acquired in seven positions during dorsi-plantarflexion (DPF) and in 10 positions during inversion-eversion (IE) at intervals of 10 degrees. MRI data of the talus and calcaneus in the neutral position were superimposed on images of the other positions using voxel-based registration, and relative motions and axes of rotation were visualized and quantitatively calculated.
Results: The calcaneus always rotated from dorsolateral to medioplantar during DPF and IE, and the motion plane was very similar to that of the entire foot in IE. The axes of rotation of the calcaneus relative to the talus during DPF and IE had a very close spatial relationship, running obliquely from antero-dorso-medial to postero-planto-lateral and penetrating the talar neck. The rotation angle around each of these calcaneal axes tended to be greater in IE (20 degrees +/- 2 degrees) than in DPF (16 degrees +/- 3 degrees). In DPF, motion of the calcaneus relative to the talus occurred predominantly around maximum dorsiflexion and plantarflexion, with little movement observed at intermediate positions. During IE, the calcaneus exhibited uninterrupted motion related to foot movement.
Conclusion: The subtalar joint is essentially a uniaxial joint with a motion plane almost identical to that of IE of the entire foot.
Clinical relevance: Knowledge of normal subtalar kinematics may be helpful when evaluating pathologic conditions.