Understanding intoeing in children
By Ally May
Physiotherapy Senior Leader
If you’ve ever been worried that your child is walking with their feet or legs turned inwards, what is often referred to as being “pigeon-toed”, then you are not alone. Intoeing is a common concern among parents, and whilst it can be a source of worry, it’s often very common in toddlers and primary school-aged children.
What is intoeing?
Intoeing is a gait, or walking pattern, abnormality where a child’s feet or legs point inward when they walk or run, resembling a pigeon’s stance. It can affect one or both legs. Many cases of intoeing involving both legs often resolve independently as a child grows.
Causes of intoeing in children
There can be a few reasons why your child might be experiencing intoeing.
This condition occurs when a child is born with curved or twisted foot bones, making the feet turn inward. It’s usually noticeable at birth and may improve independently or with gentle stretching exercises.
In this condition, the thigh bone (femur) has an increased inward twist, causing the child’s knees and feet to point inward. It is often first noticed in toddlers and may resolve as they age.
Tibial torsion involves a twisting of the shinbone (tibia). When the tibia twists inward, it can lead to intoeing. This condition may also resolve naturally with time.
Activities to help with intoeing at home
Gently massage and stretch your child’s feet, encouraging them to point their toes outward. Perform these stretches a few times a day to help improve foot alignment.
Encourage your child to sit cross-legged, which can help improve hip flexibility and reduce the inward rotation of the thighs.
Create games or challenges that require your child to walk with their feet pointing straight ahead. Activities like “walking on a tightrope” (a straight line) or “duck walking” can be both fun and beneficial.
Riding a bicycle can help improve leg alignment and strengthen the muscles responsible for maintaining proper foot positioning. Ensure the bike’s size is appropriate for your child’s height.
This fun exercise involves your child crouching like a frog and jumping forward. As they jump, encourage them to land with their feet parallel and pointing straight ahead. Frog jumps strengthen the hip muscles and promote proper foot alignment.
While these activities can be helpful, it’s important to consult a physiotherapist if you have concerns about your child’s intoeing. A professional evaluation can determine the underlying cause and provide guidance on the most effective treatment or exercises.
Remember that most cases of intoeing improve naturally as children grow. With the proper care, your child can develop healthy walking patterns and enjoy an active and pain-free childhood.