Should I Worry About the Way My Son Walks?

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Parents

My 15-month-old son walks with his feet turned in. My pediatrician assured me that it’s normal and that he’ll outgrow it. But I’m still worried. Won’t walking this way hurt him? Will he be able to play sports? Isn’t there something that doctors can do to straighten out his stride?
Allison

Many toddlers walk with their feet turned in, a tendency sometimes referred to as "walking pigeon-toed." The medical name for it is in-toeing, and it usually corrects itself without any medical treatment. In most cases children go on to walk, run, and play sports without any problems.

In the past, special shoes and braces were used to treat in-toeing. But doctors found that these devices didn't make in-toeing disappear any faster, so they're not typically used anymore.

What causes in-toeing? As babies are growing in the womb, the tibia bones (the large bones between the knees and ankles) rotate inward to accommodate the baby's fit within the uterus. Sometimes the femur bones (the bones between the hips and knees) also turn inward. So when children are learning to walk, their feet often turn in.

In-toeing usually disappears as kids develop and improve walking skills, usually around 4 to 6 years old.

Since in-toeing usually disappears gradually, it can be difficult for parents to notice any improvement from day to day. Doctors often suggest that parents who are concerned about in-toeing take a video of the child walking (from the front and the back) and take another video 1 year later. By watching and comparing the videos it's easier to determine whether the in-toeing has improved. If it has not, talk with your doctor.

In some cases in-toeing is a sign of an injury or illness, and the child needs evaluation and possible treatment. Call the doctor if your child:

  • is in-toeing and limping
  • seems to have pain in the feet or legs
  • is not learning to walk or talk as expected
  • has in-toeing that is getting worse
  • has one foot that turns in much more than the other
  • is 3 years old and the in-toeing has not started to improve

Reviewed by: Alfred Atanda Jr., MD
Date reviewed: November 2011
Originally reviewed by: Mihir Thacker, MD

Have a question? Email us.

Although we can't reply personally, you may see your question posted to this page in the future. If you're looking for medical advice, a diagnosis, or treatment, consult your doctor or other qualified medical professional. If this is an emergency, contact emergency services in your area.



Related Resources

OrganizationAmerican 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.
OrganizationAmerican 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.
OrganizationAmerican Academy of Family Physicians This site, operated by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), provides information on family physicians and health care, a directory of family physicians, and resources on health conditions.


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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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