The foot venous system: anatomy, physiology and relevance to clinical practice

Dermatol Surg. 2014 Mar;40(3):225-33. doi: 10.1111/dsu.12381. Epub 2013 Dec 23.


Objective: This review aims to summarize present knowledge of foot venous return, with a special interest in clinical and research implications.

Methods: It is based on the latest available publications on foot anatomy and hemodynamics.

Materials anatomy: Five systems are described: the superficial veins of the sole, the deep veins of the sole (with particular attention to the lateral plantar vein), the superficial dorsal plexus, the marginal veins and the dorsal arch and the perforating system. The Foot Pump: The physiology of venous return is briefly described, with an emphasis on the differences between standing and walking and the interplay of the foot and calf venous systems.

Results: The hypothesis that the foot and calf venous systems may be in conflict in several clinical conditions (localization of leg ulcers, corona phlebectatica, foot vein dilatation, arteriovenous fistulas of the foot, foot-free bandaging) is presented, briefly discussed, and mechanistically interpreted.

Conclusions: Foot venous return could be more important than is commonly thought. Certain clinical conditions could be explained by a conflict between the mechanisms of the foot pump and the leg pumps most proximal to the foot, rather than by generic pump insufficiency, with possible effects on treatment and compression strategies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Foot / blood supply*
  • Foot / physiology*
  • Hemodynamics / physiology
  • Humans
  • Lower Extremity / blood supply
  • Lower Extremity / physiology
  • Regional Blood Flow / physiology
  • Vascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Veins / anatomy & histology*
  • Veins / physiology*