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Most children take their first steps when they’re about a year old, but the age can vary from nine to 18 months and still be considered healthy and normal. Intoeing shouldn’t cause bigger complications and delays in learning to walk.

If your little one has his toes pointed inwards, he’s probably “pigeon-toed”. Once he starts walking, he might walk funny, and spread his legs a lot while doing so. Intoeing shouldn't cause delays in learning to walk. If it does, it’s probably severe and will require medical attention.

You don't need to encourage a child to crawl, sit, or walk in one way or another, everything will come naturally for them. There’s no need for walking aids such as a baby walker. A baby is programed to learn things at her own pace. [1]

What is pigeon-toed walking?

Pigeon toes or intoeing is a condition where the feet point inward while a person is walking. It is quite common in children and usually resolves by the school age without any treatment or medical intervention. In fact, intoeing is one of the most common reasons for children visiting an orthopedist for consultation. [23]

Intoeing occurs for wide array of reasons, and may involve one or both feet. According to a pediatrician Dr. Cindy Gellner, intoeing is a condition that affects the whole leg, contrary to the popular belief that it affects just feet. It is most commonly present from birth and caused by baby's position inside the womb. It's due to shin bone being turned in, a condition known as tibial torsion. If a child is older than two years, and pigeon toes just became visible, it's caused by thigh bone rotation at the hip. [4]

Your child might walk a little funny, but she shouldn't have bigger problems with moving around. The bowed leg stance is actually helpful as it helps the child to achieve better balance as she stands. If the legs are close together, the balance is unsteady and she may often trip and fall if she tries to walk this way.

Common types and treatments for intoeing

The three most common types of pigeon toes include:

  • Metatarsus adductus — The feet are turned inwards, noted at birth, usually disappears by the age of two, rarely needs casting or surgery;
  • Internal tibial torsion — The lower leg is turned inwards, usually improves by four years of age, no need for bracing or surgery unless it persists into mid-childhood. Tripping-up is a common characteristic of this type of intoeing; [56] 
  • Increased femoral anteversion — The thigh bone is turned inwards, becomes visible between two and four years of age, studies have found that bracing or casting don’t usually lead to faster improvement. Walking comes naturally without any pain. [7, 6]

When to consult a doctor?

Most children don't need any treatment for intoeing as it gets better by the time he starts standing and walking on his own. It's just important to make sure the child is not crossing the legs while sitting down. In rare cases, intoeing can be related to serious diseases such as cerebral palsy. [8]

Consult your child’s pediatrician if:

  • intoeing is severe
  • it doesn't improve over time
  • affects only one leg
  • feet are rigid
  • prevents the child from certain activities in school-age (such as football)
Some studies suggest that bone twisting cannot correct itself with braces, twister cables, special shoes inserts, or corrective shoes. These techniques were used in the past with little or no effect. Children's bones tend to correct themselves naturally, without any intervention. [910]

Experts’ opinions are divided when it comes to putting casts or braces on infants. Most experts recommend waiting because intoeing usually corrects on its own, and a very few recommend casting around six months of age if intoeing is severe. [11]

Whatever you do, avoid any bone correcting “techniques” if not prescribed by a specialist. If the condition doesn't correct on its own by the age of 10, a child might need a surgery to correct it, but luckily it usually goes away when children start sitting in chairs and stop curving the legs on the floor as much.

As much as we as parents and caregivers might be eager to see the next stage of development, children will follow the natural course and the same general growth pattern that can't be affected or changed much. You may want to speed up the process with a baby walker, but experts all across the world recommend not to, as infant walkers are a safety hazard for our little ones. [12]

What you can do to help her learn to walk is provide plenty of tummy time to strengthen those back muscles, and make sure to remove her shoes inside the house. Anti-slip socks can prevent falls and may fall-related injuries. [13] There's also a popular belief that learning to walk barefoot helps to correct pigeon toes, but it's not confirmed within scientific circles.

Observe your child — if intoeing causes problems with walking or running as she gets older, ask your pediatrician to refer you to a specialist. If not severe, pigeon toes shouldn't cause big problems or delays with walking. Your child might walk awkwardly for a while, but it will eventually get better.

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