Abductor hallucis strain

The abductor hallucis muscle lies along the inside of the foot and runs from the heel bone, inserting onto the side of the big toe. An abductor hallucis strain will cause pain in the arch of the foot, especially along the inside.


Medically reviewed by Dr Chaminda Goonetilleke, 4th Jan. 2022


  • Symptoms of an abductor hallucis muscle strain include pain along the inside arch of the foot.
  • Pain and tenderness when pressing into the sole of the foot, especially along the inside.
  • Many athletes with an abductor hallucis strain tend to overpronate where their feet roll in too much during the gait cycle.
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What is an Abductor hallucis strain?

Abductor hallucis muscle

The abductor hallucis muscle runs along the inside of the arch of the foot. It connects the calcaneus (heel bone) to the big toe. When it contracts, it bends and abducts (moves sideways) the big toe.

It also has a key role in supporting the foot arch, preventing overpronation as the foot rolls in and flattens during the gait cycle.


Treatment of abductor hallucis strains

What can the athlete do?

  • Rest is important. Continuing to train on an injured foot will only make the injury worse or delay the healing process. For a mild strain, it may only need a few days of rest or a change of training activity, for example, substituting running for cycling or swimming until the pain has gone.
  • Apply cold therapy or ice as soon as possible. Ice can be applied for 10 minutes every hour initially for the first few hours reducing frequency as pain and swelling go down to 2 or 3 times per day.
  • Taping the arch of the foot can help reduce the stress on the injured muscle allowing the foot to rest more easily.
  • If overpronation or other biomechanical factors are an issue then orthotic-type insoles can help support the foot long-term
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What can a doctor do?

A doctor or sports injury professional can confirm the diagnosis and may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen. Always check with a doctor before taking medication.

Electrotherapy such as ultrasound can help with pain and inflammation and, after the initial acute stage, deep tissue sports massage may be of benefit. This may be after 48 hours or up to a week or more depending on how bad the muscle strain is.

Once pain allows a full rehabilitation program of stretching and strengthening exercises is important. Stretches for the plantar fascia under the foot, as well as the calf muscles, are important.

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