It’s always a joy for a parent to watch their little one slowly learn to pull herself up, then begin to waddle forward. There’ll be some early spills, but kids are persistent. Almost nobody is graceful when they take their first steps, but sometimes parents will notice something a little extra out of alignment—for example, “pigeon toes” that point inward rather than straight ahead.
The truth is, pigeon-toed walking (also known as in-toeing) is fairly common in young children. Children’s bones are still soft and growing—all the way until the late teens—which allows for the kind of rotational problems that cause in-toeing. Furthermore, the “twist” may originate in the feet (metatarsus abductus), shin (tibial torsion), or thigh (femoral anteversion).
The underlying causes for a specific case—that is, why one child walks with pigeon toes while another does not—are not always perfectly clear. However, many instances are thought to be related to the position of the fetus in the uterus. Even for a baby, the womb can provide quite cramped accommodations, and bones of the feet, shin, or thigh may have to rotate slightly to fit inside. That twisting may be preserved after birth, and it may take your little one several years to grow out of it.
Genetics may also play a role. If either of the child’s parents walked with pigeon toes when young, their son or daughter may experience similar issues. You may have to go back to old family photos or ancestors to find out if that’s the case.
Fortunately, the vast majority of cases resolve on their own, without any treatment, by the time your child is 6-8 years old. Not only are braces and other tools usually unnecessary, they often don’t even help. Furthermore, your child should still have no trouble walking, running, jumping, and playing normally.
The best thing you can do is bring your child in for an initial appointment at Southern California Foot & Ankle Specialists, then simply observe how your child’s gait changes over time. If you do notice your child having more-than-normal difficulty learning to walk, experiencing pain or discomfort, or their gait is not improving with time, see us again to see if further treatment might be necessary. To schedule an appointment, contact us online or by calling 949-364-9255.