Learning about legs and their natural range of movement – part 3

Today we’re going to be continuing our investigation of how the legs bend in different poses and situations. This time, we’re moving down to the ankle area. This is an important area to consider when drawing a character walking – we want the ankles to look natural so that the whole image is believable.

Don’t forget to check out the previous sections too! For the whole leg, see part 1 and for the knee, see part 2.

Bending the ankle

The ankle generally bends a full 90 degrees, from the pointed toe position, to the angle our foot is at when we stand upright.

Illustrating how the ankle bends:

In the above image, we can see the 90 degree angle mentioned.

How far can the ankles “open”?

Ankles can comfortably swivel about 30 degrees outwards from the body. They barely twist inwards at all. You can test this on your own ankles! Of course we sometimes see feet totally spread out to a 180 degree angle, in a “ballet” pose, but this is not just the ankle moving – the whole leg is involved in pivoting the feet right out to the sides. When testing how much your ankles twist outwards, be sure it’s just the ankle joint you’re moving, not the knee or hip joints.

Pidgeon-toe / in-toeing

As I mentioned earlier, the ankles barely twist inwards at all. However, depending on the position of the hip joints, the whole leg can swivel inwards, creating an “in-toe” effect, where the toes point towards each other, and the heels outwards.

This is called “uchimata” in Japanese, and is actually a very popular “cute” pose in anime, as it makes a character look shy and “in need of protection”. Many girls actually walk or pose like this in real life in Japan, even though it’s not great for posture.

Legs facing forwards

“Pidgeon-toe” pose

In this case, the thighs and calves are actually turned inwards, creating the illusion that the character’s feet are twisted inwards. You’ll see that the knees are also a little bent. You might also have seen the single-footed in-toe pose, where one of the character’s legs is front-facing, and the other is bent at the knee and turned in towards the other. This is a very popular “shy”/”cute” pose in anime!

Point A

Pay attention to this middle line on the thigh – you can see that the line is off-centre because the legs are twisted inwards.

Example poses

Let’s take a look at some example poses where the character is moving their ankles!

Pointing the toes in and out

Toes out
The feet point outwards in a natural way, and provide a well-balanced foundation for the character to stand on. In anime, this way of standing might be considered more masculine.

Toes in
Can you see how the inward pointing toes give a sense that the character might have trouble balancing? This unstable, wobbly appearance is considered cute and feminine in Japan and in the anime world.

Putting on socks

When a character is putting on socks, tights or stockings, they will usually point their toe, to help the sock slide on more easily. This makes the leg form an elegant line up from the tip of the toe to the knee.

Point A

Here we can see that the leg is forming a pointed shape, as the character points their toe and pulls the sock on.

How does the ankle move when walking?

Getting the bend of the ankle correct when drawing a character walking is very important. With the ankle at the wrong angle, the character is going to look clumsy and unstable, so let’s take a look at how we can prevent this! I’ll take you through the process, step by step.

1 – The character is propelling themselves forwards with the toes of the back foot

2 – The front foot hits the ground heel-first

3 – The back foot is fully raised off the ground

4 – The front foot is fully planted on the ground, with all of the character’s weight resting on it

5 – The foot that was fully planted on the ground lifts up, and again, this foot is used to propel the character forwards

6 – The back foot, which is now the front foot, hits the ground heel-first

That’s how we can show our character walking in a natural way! Remember to use your own body as a reference when you’re not sure.

That brings us to the end of this third and final part of our three-part lesson on legs! Physically, legs take up more than half of the body, and they’re important for drawing all kinds of poses. Make sure to get plenty of practice, and don’t forget to check out part 1 and 2 too!

Anime Art Academy is on Discord! Come and join our community!

Previous Story

Japanese anime fans rank the “best anime hot spring episodes” (everyone’s choice edition)

Next Story

Use this template to draw a perfect face every time!