Soleus Muscle: Definition, Location & Function

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
Ever thought about what your calf muscles actually do? This lesson goes over the definition, location, basic anatomy, and important functions of soleus, one of the muscles located in your calf area.

The Soleus Muscle

Can you feel your calf muscle? It feels like one big muscle, right? Well here's a cool fact: the calf muscle is actually a collection of different muscles. In fact, the majority of what we call the calf muscle is actually termed collectively as 'triceps surae'.

The triceps surae (literally: the three headed muscle of the calf) is composed of the gastrocnemius and soleus. And so, the soleus muscle is one important part of your calf. We'll go over its location and function in this lesson.

Location and Anatomy

If you were to take the skin off of your calf, you'd see a large muscle known as the gastrocnemius staring right at you. In other words, when you poke the middle of your calf, you're directly poking the gastrocnemius.

The gastrocnemius in this drawing has largely been removed to reveal the soleus muscle lying underneath.
soleus

But if you were to cut away the gastrocnemius, then you'd notice a broad and flat muscle known as soleus. In other words, this muscle is located immediately anterior to (in front of) the gastrocnemius.

Soleus is connected to the tibia (shin bone), fibula (calf bone), and to a fibrous tissue band located between the shin and calf bone called the soleal arch.

The soleus is innervated by branches from the tibial nerve, and two sacral nerves, S1 and S2. The muscle is also supplied with oxygenated blood thanks in part to the popliteal artery, fibular artery, and posterior tibial artery.

The soleus has a muscle belly, no, not a stomach, but the the wider, fleshy, central, and more prominent part of a muscle. In this muscle belly is a venous plexus, a network of interconnecting veins. This is important to note because it's not uncommon for cases of deep vein thrombosis to develop here, where a blood clot forms in a deep vein of the body. In some cases, a piece of this thrombus can break off and travel via other veins to the lungs. This piece of blood clot can lodge in the lungs and lead to a life-threatening situation.

Function

Along with the gastrocnemius, the soleus muscle is the most important plantar flexor of the foot. In other words, it helps bring the food downwards, the same movement you make if you're pressing a brake pedal when driving a car.

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