Since the launch of lithium-ion batteries, elements (such as silicon, tin, or aluminum) that can be alloyed with lithium have been expected as anode materials, owing to larger capacity. However, their successful application has not been accomplished because of drastic structural degradation caused by cyclic large volume change during battery reactions. To prolong lifetime of alloy anodes, we must circumvent the huge volume strain accompanied by insertion/extraction of lithium. Here we report that by using aluminum-foil anodes, the volume expansion during lithiation can be confined to the normal direction to the foil and, consequently, the electrode cyclability can be markedly enhanced. Such a unidirectional volume-strain circumvention requires an appropriate hardness of the matrix and a certain tolerance to off-stoichiometry of the resulting intermetallic compound, which drive interdiffusion of matrix component and lithium along the normal-plane direction. This metallurgical concept would invoke a paradigm shift to future alloy-anode battery technologies.