Whether your baby rises from a crawl with a shaky first step or a full-on sprint across the living room, chances are you'll be on the edge of your seat. But remember — a child's first steps usually aren't picture perfect.
Learning to walk takes time and practice, and it's common for kids to start walking with their toes and feet turned at an angle. When feet turn inward — a tendency referred to as walking "pigeon-toed" — doctors call it in-toeing. When feet point outward, it's called out-toeing.
It can be upsetting to see your child develop an abnormal gait, but for most toddlers with in-toeing or out-toeing, it's usually nothing to worry about. The conditions do not cause pain and usually improve as kids grow older.
Almost all healthy kids who toe-in or -out as toddlers learn to run, jump, and play sports as they grow up, just the same as kids without gait problems.
Most toddlers toe-in or -out because of a slight rotation, or twist, of the upper or lower leg bones.
Tibial torsion, the most common cause of in-toeing, occurs when the lower leg bone (tibia) tilts inward. If the tibia tilts outward, a child will toe-out. When the thighbone, or femur, is tilted, the tibia will also turn and give the appearance of in-toeing or out-toeing. The medical term for this is femoral anteversion. In-toeing can also be caused by metatarsus adductus, a curvature of the foot that causes toes to point inward.
Why some kids develop gait abnormalities and others don't is unclear, but many experts think that a family history of in-toeing or out-toeing plays a role. So, if you toed-in or -out as a child, there's a chance that your child could develop the same tendency.
Also, being cramped in the womb during pregnancy can contribute to a child in-toeing or out-toeing. As a fetus grows, some of the bones have to rotate slightly to fit into the small space of the uterus. In many cases, these bones are still rotated to some degree for the first few years of life. Often this is most noticeable when a child learns to walk because if the tibia or femur tilt at an angle, the feet will too.
As most kids get older, their bones very gradually rotate to a normal angle. Walking, like other skills, improves with experience, so kids will become better able to control their muscles and foot position.
In-toeing and out-toeing gets better over time, but this happens very gradually and is hard to notice. So doctors often recommend using video clips to help parents track improvement. Parents can record their child walking, and then wait about a year to take another video. This usually makes it easy to see if the gait abnormality has improved over time. In most cases, it has. If not, parents should speak with their child's doctor to discuss whether treatment is necessary.
In the past, special shoes and braces were used to treat gait abnormalities. But doctors found that these didn't make in-toeing or out-toeing disappear any faster, so they're rarely used now.
Speak with your doctor if you're concerned about the way your child walks. For a small number of kids, gait abnormalities can be associated with other problems. For example, out-toeing could signal a neuromuscular condition in rare cases.
Have your child evaluated by a doctor if you notice:
The doctor can then decide if more specialized exams or testing should be done to make sure that your child gets the proper care.
|American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) The AAOS provides information for the public on sports safety, and bone, joint, muscle, ligament and tendon injuries or conditions.|
|American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.|
|National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases This Web site provides the latest information about the treatment and prevention of arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases.|
|Movement, Coordination, and Your 1- to 2-Year-Old Most toddlers this age are walking and gaining even more control over their hands and fingers. Give your child lots of fun (and safe) things to do to encourage this development.|
|Movement, Coordination, and Your 8- to 12-Month-Old From scooting to crawling to cruising, during these months, babies are learning how to get around.|
|Should I Worry About the Way My Son Walks? Find out what the experts have to say.|
|Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip Babies are born with this hip deformity or develop it soon after birth. With early treatent, kids can avoid long-term hip problems.|
|Learning, Play, and Your 1- to 2-Year-Old Kids go from babies to toddlers during this time, from first steps to walking well. They also make major strides in language and communication.|
|Delayed Speech or Language Development Knowing what's "normal" and what's not in speech and language development can help you figure out if you should be concerned or if your child is right on schedule.|
|A to Z: Abnormality of Gait (Gait Abnormality) Learn about abnormality of gait (or gait abnormality), an unusual walking pattern or style.|
|Your Baby's Growth: 8 Months Your baby is growing by leaps and bounds, and may even be crawling or cruising. Here's what to expect this month.|
|Common Childhood Orthopedic Conditions Flatfeet, toe walking, pigeon toes, bowlegs, and knock-knees. Lots of kids have these common orthopedic conditions, but are they medical problems that can and should be corrected?|
What to expect when coming to Akron Children's
For healthcare providers and nurses
Residency & Fellowships, Medical Students, Nursing and Allied Health
For prospective employees and career-seekers
Our online community that provides inspirational stories and helpful information.