The Windlass Mechanism of the Foot
The windlass mechanism of the foot is an important and integral structure for normal foot function.
The windlass mechanism consists of the plantar aponeurosis, which is for all intents and purposes the same thing as the plantar fascia (I don’t want to argue semantics). It attaches to the plantar aspect of the heel, spans out across the plantar surface of the foot, to underneath the metatarsal heads to attach to the base of the toes. If you lift up any of the toes on a weight-bearing foot, especially the great toe, you pull on the plantar fascia and the arch is lifted up, activating the windlass mechanism. This works on all toes, but is much more powerful on the great toe. The term ‘windlass’ comes from sailing where it is the winch mechanism where the rope is wound around a drum, so in the foot the windlass is the plantar aponeurosis being wound around the metatarsal head.
It was first described by Hicks in 1954.