Intoeing in children (pigeon toes)

Disclaimer: This fact sheet is for education purposes only. Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for your child.

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What is intoeing?

Most people walk with their toes and feet pointing straight ahead. Some children's feet turn in when they walk. This can be called intoeing or pigeon-toed. There are many reasons why a child may walk with their feet pointing in, but most cases are corrected on their own as the child grows up. This is why there aren't many pigeon-toed adults.

What is the cause?

There are three common causes of intoeing.

Tibial torsion - The shinbone (tibia) is the most common twisted bone. The twist can be caused by the way the baby lay in the womb while the bones were still soft. The bone slowly untwists as the child grows. Usually the twist is gone by school age.

Femoral anteversion - The thigh bone (femur) can also be twisted inwards. This usually corrects itself, more slowly, by age nine or ten. In some children this doesn't correct fully and these are the people who walk pigeon-toed as adults.

Metartasus adductus - The feet are curved inwards. Most of these children also get better without treatment, but for those few children who have very curved feet, some bracing or special shoes may help in the first couple of years of life.

What treatment will be needed?

The bone twisting conditions cannot be fixed with braces, shoe inserts or special shoes. These methods were used in the past and found to have no effect. It has been discovered that the bones correct themselves without any treatment. Occasionally your doctor may recommend a brace for a special reason.

What problems will occur?

Children who have intoeing tend to trip a little more at first, but later on are fine. Children with intoeing are just as good at sport and are no more likely to get arthritis or back problems than anyone else. Intoeing should not get worse and your child should be able to participate in all types of physical activity.

If you think your child's intoeing is getting worse, a doctor should see them again. Many parents worry that their child will always walk with their feet turned in, however this hardly ever happens. No treatment has been proven to improve a child's intoeing - it is best to just let it correct itself as your child grows.

Remember

  • Most children with intoeing do not require treatment and self-correct over time.
  • Special shoes and braces aren't usually needed and are only recommended by doctors for rare cases.
  • Orthotics have no role in the correction of intoeing.

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Kids Health (CHW)
The Children's Hospital at Westmead
Tel: (02) 9845 0000
Fax: (02) 9845 3562
www.chw.edu.au
Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick
Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick
Tel: (02) 9382 1688
Fax: (02) 9382 1451
www.sch.edu.au
Kaleidoscope, Hunter Children's Health Network
Kaleidoscope Children Young People and Families Network
Tel: (02) 4921 3670
Fax: (02) 4921 3599
www.kaleidoscope.org.au