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Dorsiflexion vs. Plantar Flexion — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Published on January 17, 2024
Dorsiflexion is the upward movement of the foot, while plantar flexion is the downward movement.
Dorsiflexion vs. Plantar Flexion — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Dorsiflexion and Plantar Flexion


Key Differences

Dorsiflexion refers to the action of lifting the foot upwards towards the shin, a movement primarily involving the ankle joint. This is often seen when walking uphill or pulling the toes towards the body. In contrast, plantar flexion is the movement of pointing the foot downward, away from the body, commonly observed when standing on tiptoes or pushing down on a car pedal.
Dorsiflexion and plantar flexion are both essential movements in daily activities and athletic endeavors. While dorsiflexion engages muscles like the tibialis anterior, plantar flexion utilizes the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles in the calf. These movements are not just limited to walking but are integral in actions like jumping and running.
Injuries affecting dorsiflexion and plantar flexion can significantly impact mobility. Conditions like "drop foot," where dorsiflexion is impaired, can cause tripping and difficulty in walking. Similarly, injuries affecting plantar flexion, like Achilles tendon ruptures, can hinder the ability to push off the ground effectively.
Dorsiflexion and plantar flexion also play roles in various exercises and rehabilitation protocols. Strengthening exercises for dorsiflexion might include resistance band work, while calf raises are common for enhancing plantar flexion strength. In physical therapy, both movements are often assessed and addressed to ensure proper ankle and foot function.
Both dorsiflexion and plantar flexion are not only vital for movement but also for maintaining balance and stability. Dorsiflexion helps in evenly distributing weight across the foot during activities like squatting, while plantar flexion is crucial in propelling the body forward during walking or running.

Comparison Chart

Movement Direction

Upward motion of the foot towards the shin
Downward motion of the foot away from body

Involved Muscles

Tibialis anterior
Gastrocnemius, soleus

Common Activities

Walking uphill, toe raises
Standing on tiptoes, driving

Associated Conditions

Drop foot, shin splints
Achilles tendonitis, calf strains

Rehabilitation Exercises

Resistance band work, ankle stretches
Calf raises, downward foot stretches

Compare with Definitions


Lifting the foot towards the shin.
During yoga, dorsiflexion of the foot helps stabilize the standing poses.

Plantar Flexion

Downward movement of the foot at the ankle.
Driving requires constant plantar flexion to operate the pedals.


Upward movement of the foot at the ankle.
Dorsiflexion is essential for walking up stairs.

Plantar Flexion

Ankle movement increasing the angle between the sole of the foot and the back of the leg.
Plantar flexion is pronounced when wearing high heels.


Ankle movement reducing the angle between the dorsum of the foot and the leg.
She practiced dorsiflexion exercises after her ankle injury.

Plantar Flexion

Bending the foot downward away from the leg.
Swimmers use plantar flexion for a powerful kick.


Bending the foot upward towards the body.
Dorsiflexion of the foot is necessary when doing calf stretches.

Plantar Flexion

Flexing the foot in a downward direction.
Gymnasts utilize plantar flexion for landing jumps.


Flexing the foot in an upward direction.
The athlete's strong dorsiflexion contributed to his impressive jump height.

Plantar Flexion

Pointing the foot downward away from the body.
Ballet dancers exhibit extreme plantar flexion during performances.


(medicine) Flexion in the dorsal direction


The act of bending backward (of the body or a body part)

Common Curiosities

What muscles are involved in dorsiflexion?

The tibialis anterior muscle is primarily involved in dorsiflexion.

What is dorsiflexion?

Dorsiflexion is the movement of lifting the foot upwards towards the shin.

Which muscles are used in plantar flexion?

The gastrocnemius and soleus muscles in the calf are used during plantar flexion.

Can injuries affect dorsiflexion?

Yes, injuries like "drop foot" can impair dorsiflexion, affecting walking.

What is an example of dorsiflexion in daily life?

Walking uphill involves dorsiflexion of the foot.

How does dorsiflexion affect running?

Proper dorsiflexion allows for better foot placement and stride efficiency in running.

Is dorsiflexion important for squatting exercises?

Yes, dorsiflexion helps in distributing weight evenly during squats.

What is plantar flexion?

Plantar flexion is the action of pointing the foot downward, away from the body.

Is plantar flexion important for balance?

Yes, plantar flexion plays a crucial role in maintaining balance and stability.

Do both dorsiflexion and plantar flexion involve the ankle joint?

Yes, both movements primarily involve the ankle joint.

Are there exercises to improve dorsiflexion?

Yes, resistance band work and ankle stretches can improve dorsiflexion.

What is a common injury related to plantar flexion?

Achilles tendonitis is a common injury affecting plantar flexion.

Are there sports where dorsiflexion is particularly important?

Yes, sports like soccer and ballet require strong dorsiflexion for performance.

Can weak plantar flexion affect athletic performance?

Yes, weak plantar flexion can reduce propulsion and jumping ability.

Can tight calf muscles affect plantar flexion?

Yes, tight calf muscles can restrict the range of plantar flexion.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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