Evolutionary anatomy of the plantar aponeurosis in primates, including humans

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of Anatomy








human evolution; locomotor behaviour; non-human primates; plantar aponeurosis; plantaris muscle


The plantar aponeurosis in the human foot has been extensively studied and thoroughly described, in part, because of the incidence of plantar fasciitis in humans. It is commonly assumed that the human plantar aponeurosis is a unique adaptation to bipedalism that evolved in concert with the longitudinal arch. However, the comparative anatomy of the plantar aponeurosis is poorly known in most mammals, even among non-human primates, hindering efforts to understand its function. Here, we review previous anatomical descriptions of 40 primate species and use phylogenetic comparative methods to reconstruct the evolution of the plantar aponeurosis and its relationship to the plantaris muscle in primates. Ancestral state reconstructions suggest that the overall organization of the human plantar aponeurosis is shared with chimpanzees and that a similar anatomical configuration evolved independently in different primate clades as an adaptation to terrestrial locomotion. The presence of a plantar aponeurosis with clearly developed lateral and central bands in the African apes suggests that this structure is not prohibitive to suspensory locomotion and that these species possess versatile feet adapted for both terrestrial and arboreal locomotion. This plantar aponeurosis configuration would have been advantageous in enhancing foot stiffness for bipedal locomotion in the earliest hominins, prior to the evolution of a longitudinal arch. Hominins may have subsequently evolved thicker and stiffer plantar aponeuroses alongside the arch to enable a windlass mechanism and elastic energy storage for bipedal walking and running, although this idea requires further testing.