Non–Weight-Bearing and Weight-Bearing Ultrasonography of Select Foot Muscles in Young, Asymptomatic Participants: A Descriptive and Reliability Study

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The primary aim of this study was to determine the reliability of diagnostic ultrasound imaging for select intrinsic foot muscles using both non–weight-bearing and weight-bearing postures. Our secondary aim was to describe the change in muscle cross-sectional area (CSA) and dorsoplantar thickness when bearing weight.


An ultrasound examination was performed with a linear ultrasound transducer operating between 9 and 12 MHz. Long-axis and short-axis ultrasound images of the abductor hallucis, flexor digitorum brevis, and quadratus plantae were obtained in both the non–weight-bearing and weight-bearing postures. Two examiners independently collected ultrasound images to allow for interexaminer and intraexaminer reliability calculation. The change in muscle CSA and dorsoplantar thickness when bearing weight was also studied.


There were 26 participants (17 female) with a mean age of 25.5 ± 3.8 years and a mean body mass index of 28.0 ± 7.8 kg/m2. Inter-examiner reliability was excellent when measuring the muscles in short axis (intraclass correlation coefficient >0.75) and fair to good in long axis (intraclass correlation coefficient >0.4). Intraexaminer reliability was excellent for the abductor hallucis and flexor digitorum brevis and ranged from fair to good to excellent for the quadratus plantae. Bearing weight did not reduce interexaminer or intraexaminer reliability. All muscles exhibited a significant increase in CSA when bearing weight.


This is the first report to describe weight-bearing diagnostic ultrasound of the intrinsic foot muscles. Ultrasound imaging is reliable when imaging these muscles bearing weight. Furthermore, muscle CSA increases in the weight-bearing posture.

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