Dorsalis pedis artery

Last revised by Assoc Prof Craig Hacking on 26 Aug 2021

The dorsalis pedis artery is the principal dorsal artery of the foot.

  • location: dorsal surface of the foot, running towards the first dorsal interosseous space
  • origin: direct continuation of the anterior tibial artery
  • termination: as the first dorsal metatarsal artery
  • branches: deep plantar artery, lateral tarsal artery and arcuate artery
  • relations: usually palpable between extensor hallucis longus and extensor digitorum longus tendons

The dorsalis pedis artery originates at the level of the distal tibia between the medial and lateral malleoli as the direct continuation of the anterior tibial artery 1. It runs superficially on the dorsal surface of the forefoot, over the talus and navicular towards the first dorsal interosseous space, where it continues as the first dorsal metatarsal artery.

From distal to proximal, its principal branches are:

  • deep plantar artery – anastomoses with the plantar arch
  • arcuate artery
  • lateral tarsal artery

On the dorsal midfoot, the dorsalis pedis artery runs between the tendons of extensor hallucis longus and extensor digitorum longus. It passes deep to the extensor retinaculum.

The dorsalis pedis artery is rarely congenitally absent in ~2% of healthy individuals 2.

As it is so superficial and relatively consistent in position, it is easily palpable as part of an examination of the peripheral arterial system. Impalpable dorsalis pedis pulse is a sign of arterial insufficiency.

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: leg arteries (Gray's illustrations)
    Drag here to reorder.
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