Equinus Contracture

Equinus contracture is a condition in which the upward bending motion of the ankle joint is limited, lacking the flexibility to lift the top of the foot. This happens due to either tightness of the muscles and/or tendons in the calf. This condition can occur in one or both feet. When it involves both feet, the limitation of motion is sometimes worse in one foot than in the other. If you develop ways to compensate for your limited ankle motion, it can often lead to other foot, leg or back problems. It is named after horses (equine) who essentially walk “on their toes”.


There are several possible causes for the limited range of ankle motion. Often, it is due to tightness in the Achilles tendon or calf muscles. In some cases, this tightness is present at birth, and sometimes it is an inherited trait. You can also acquire the tightness from being in a cast, being on crutches or frequently wearing high-heeled shoes. Medical conditions such as diabetes may cause muscles to stiffen.

Sometimes equinus is related to a bone blocking the ankle motion. For example, following an ankle injury, a fragment of a broken bone can get in the way and restrict motion. Equinus may also result from one leg being shorter than the other.


Most patients with equinus are unaware they have this condition when they first visit a doctor. Instead, seek relief for other foot problems associated with equinus.

Contact your doctor if you notice:

  • Arch/heel pain
  • Calf cramping
  • Inflammation in the Achilles tendon
  • Pain and/or callusing on the ball of the foot
  • Flatfoot
  • Arthritis on the midfoot
  • Pressure sores on the ball of the foot or the arch
  • Bunions and hammertoes
  • Ankle pain
  • Shin splints

Potential Treatments

To diagnose equinus, your doctor will evaluate the ankle’s range of motion when the knee is flexed, as well as extended. This helps identify whether the tendon or muscle is tight, or if a bone is interfering with the ankle’s range of motion. X-rays may also be performed. In some cases, your doctor may refer you for a neurologic evaluation.

In some cases, surgery may be needed to correct the cause of equinus if it is due to a tight tendon or a bone blocking your ankle motion. Your doctor will determine the type of procedure that is best suited for you.

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