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The five metatarsal bones are each a little different, but they share features of their anatomy in common. They have long slender shafts, the first being more stocky than the others. The shafts have a prismatic shape in cross-section. They are convex dorsally and concave on their plantar surfaces. The shafts expand into rectangular bases at their proximal ends and rounded heads at their distal ends. The first and fifth metatarsal bases are marked by the presence of tubercles placed in a proximolateral position. The first metatarsal is short and stocky. Its distal plantar surface presents two grooved facets for the sesamoid bones of the flexor hallucis brevis.
Metatarsal comes from the Greek prefix meta- denoting over or beyond and tarsos. The term tarsos is directly translated as a flat wicker basket. It later referred to any broad, flat surface. Early Greek physicians applied the term to the flat of the foot, to which we still apply it today. Therefore, metatarsus is the region just beyond the flat of the foot.
The first metatarsal articulates with three bones: the medial cuneiform, sometimes with the second metatarsal, and the first proximal phalanx. The first metatarsal bone forms a large kidney-shaped surface that articulates with the medial cuneiform. Sometimes, but not always, it forms a small lateral facet for articulation with the second metatarsal at its proximal end. Distally it articulates with the proximal phalanx.
The first metatarsal originates from a primary center in the tenth week of intrauterine life. This center forms the head and shaft by the time of birth. A second center arises during the third year forming an epiphysis at the base of the bone. This center joins the shaft between the eighteenth and twentieth year.