Posterior Tibial Tendon Dysfunction (PTTD)

September 29, 2023

The posterior tibial tendon (PTT) is a crucial structure in the lower leg that plays a significant role in maintaining the arch of the foot and providing stability during walking and other weight-bearing activities. Posterior Tibial Tendon Dysfunction (PTTD) is a condition that arises when this tendon becomes damaged or weakened, leading to a collapse of the foot arch and causing various foot problems. In this article, we will delve into the anatomy and function of the posterior tibial tendon, the causes of PTTD, and effective rehabilitation techniques to strengthen and restore its function. We will also discuss preventive measures to avoid PTTD.


The posterior tibial tendon is a long, thick band of connective tissue that runs along the inside of the ankle and inserts into several bones in the foot, primarily the navicular and the medial cuneiform. Its primary functions include:


  • Arch Support: The PTT plays a pivotal role in supporting the arch of the foot. It helps maintain the foot's shape and stability during walking, running, and other weight-bearing activities.


  • Inversion and Plantarflexion: This tendon is responsible for inverting the foot (turning the sole inward) and plantarflexing the ankle (pointing the toes downward). These movements are essential for maintaining balance and propelling the body forward during gait.


PTTD typically develops over time due to various factors that cause damage or degeneration of the posterior tibial tendon. The primary causes include:


  • Overuse and Repetitive Stress: Excessive and repetitive stress on the tendon, often due to activities like running, walking on uneven surfaces, or standing for prolonged periods, can lead to micro-tears in the tendon and eventual degeneration.


  • Aging: Natural age-related changes, such as a decrease in collagen production and blood supply to tendons, can weaken the posterior tibial tendon and make it more susceptible to injury.


  • Trauma: A sudden injury, such as a fall or a severe ankle sprain, can damage the posterior tibial tendon or its supporting structures.


  • Obesity: Excess body weight places added stress on the posterior tibial tendon, increasing the risk of dysfunction.


Effective rehabilitation for PTTD aims to alleviate pain, restore function, and prevent further deterioration of the tendon. Loading the tendon appropriately is a critical aspect of this process. Here are some key rehabilitation strategies:


  • Rest and Immobilization: In the early stages of PTTD, rest and immobilization may be necessary to allow the tendon to heal. This may involve wearing a walking boot or brace to reduce stress on the tendon.


  • Physical Therapy: Physical therapy is a cornerstone of PTTD rehabilitation. A physical therapist can design a customized exercise program to strengthen the posterior tibial tendon and improve foot and ankle stability. Exercises may include:

  1. Eccentric Strengthening: Eccentric exercises involve lengthening the tendon while it is under load. For PTTD, eccentric calf raises can be beneficial. These exercises help build tendon strength and endurance.
  2. Arch Strengthening: Exercises that target the muscles responsible for maintaining the arch of the foot, such as the intrinsic foot muscles, can help support the tendon. These may include toe-tapping or short foot exercises.
  3. Balance and Proprioception Training: Improving balance and proprioception (awareness of your body's position) can enhance foot and ankle stability, reducing the risk of further injury.


  • Gait Analysis: A gait analysis by a physical therapist or podiatrist can identify abnormal walking patterns that may be contributing to PTTD. Correcting these patterns through gait training can be essential for long-term recovery.


Preventing PTTD involves adopting healthy habits and practices to reduce the risk of tendon damage. Preventative measures include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight, which can reduce the strain on the posterior tibial tendon and lower the risk of PTTD. 
  • Progressing gradually into a new exercise or activity, which allows your tendons to adapt to increased stress.
  • Including regular stretching and strengthening exercises for your calf muscles and foot arches in your fitness routine.
  • Paying attention to any signs of pain or discomfort in your feet and ankles. If you experience persistent symptoms, seek medical attention early to prevent further damage.


The posterior tibial tendon is a vital structure that supports the arch of the foot and maintains foot stability during weight-bearing activities. Posterior Tibial Tendon Dysfunction (PTTD) can be a debilitating condition, but with proper rehabilitation and preventive measures, its progression can be managed or even halted. Understanding the anatomy and function of the posterior tibial tendon, recognizing the causes of PTTD, and following effective rehabilitation strategies are key steps in addressing this condition and maintaining optimal foot health.

TIPS & TRICKS

PTTD typically develops over time due to various factors that cause damage or degeneration of the posterior tibial tendon.

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