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Treating Abnormal Walking in Children

Watching a baby learn to walk makes it clear that our gait changes significantly as we age.  Gait refers to the way that a person walks, and there are a set of standards used to signify a range of normal.  Babies wobble, and often have a wider stance as they learn to balance during walking.  However, for some children, an abnormal gait carries over into the toddler years.

What are some common gait abnormalities in children?

Gait Abnormalities in ChildrenIn-toeing and out-toeing are the most common concerns seen among toddlers.  It’s very common for children in this age group to angle their feet either in (also referred to as pigeon-toed) or out.  While it may trouble parents to see these gait concerns, children experience no pain from them, and most see improvement as they age.

What causes in-toeing and out-toeing?

The most common reason for these gait abnormalities is that the bones of the leg are rotated.  For instance, in-toeing is usually caused by tibial torsion, which means that the tibia (or lower leg bone) angles inwardly.  If it angles outward, then out-toeing is the result.  Femoral anteversion can cause the same problems due to a turning in or out of the thigh bone (femur) which then impacts the tibia.  Also, if a child’s foot curves, in-toeing can result.  This foot curvature is known as metatarsus adductus.

Why does my child have a gait abnormality?

There are no clear answers regarding the exact reasons that some children develop in-toeing or out-toeing while others do not.  Some professionals suggest that these childhood gait abnormalities may run in families.  If possible, find out if you or your siblings experienced an unusual gait as children.  This may help your doctor to understand the family history, and assess the likelihood that your child’s gait will improve as they get older.

Another theory regarding these gait concerns is that limited space in a mother’s womb may lead to out-toeing or in-toeing.  Space is limited, and as a baby grows inside his mother the bones of the leg may turn in order to fit within the confines of the womb.  In this case, seeing the child learn to walk will give tell-tale signs that turning of the bones of the leg and the feet have occurred.

What should I do if I notice that my child is either in-toeing or out-toeing?

Typically parents will see improvement as their child grows, and becomes a more experienced walker.  Children gain greater control over their gait as they mature, and often the bones of the leg will go back to the appropriate angle.  As a parent, it may be helpful to use video to document your child’s gait on a yearly basis.  This will assist you in noting changes and improvements as your child ages.  Most likely, you will see that your child’s gait has improved.  However, if you see that it hasn’t, you should discuss your concerns with your child’s doctor to determine the best course of action.

Some basic guidelines that are used to decide when it’s time to seek medical intervention include:

  • Reports of pain
  • Gait concerns that are getting worse and not better
  • Limping
  • Persistent in-toeing or out-toeing beyond age 3
  • Imbalances:  one foot that angles more than the other
  • Delays in development such as talking

In some cases, gait abnormalities can indicate neuromuscular conditions, so it is important to seek a podiatrist’s advice to determine if further testing is needed.

Are there other gait abnormalities that show up in children?

Limping and toe-walking are two other gait concerns that appear in children.  Toe-walking is much less common, and when it occurs past age three is often related to muscles that are tight.  However, it can indicate serious conditions such as cerebral palsy.

Limping is most often a reaction to pain (a blister, sprain, etc.), which are a normal part of life.  However, limping when pain is not present can indicate an issue that is developmental or neuromuscular in nature.  Seek help from Drs. Joel Brook, Arroyo, McClurkin and Tran at Dallas Podiatry Works if limping, with or without pain, is persistent. Schedule an appointment today.

Your Top-Rated Podiatrist in Dallas & Beyond

The doctor has great “bedside manners” when talking to patients. Great staff and comfortable atmosphere.

Derrick W.

The staff at Dallas Podiatry Works could not have been more courteous, helpful, and professional in doing their job. They made me feel comfortable when I was there, which is certainly appreciated. They answered all the questions that I had and just made each visit the most pleasurable that it could be. I would highly recommend them to anyone needing this type of foot care.

Joseph B.

I would highly recommend Dr. Brook to anyone with foot problems–especially problems that stump other podiatrists. He really is very caring and very knowledgeable.

Jeannette H.

Dr. Joel Brook and the staff were nice and helpful. Though I was a new patient, I got right in as soon as they were open in my preferred location. They diagnosed the problem and provided medicines along with a perfect gel bandage so I could keep exercising while my toes healed. My toes already hurt less and look a little better each day. If I have future issues, I will be a repeat customer. Here’s hoping I don’t, but at least I know my feet are in good hands.

Meryl E.

I visited this office for an ingrown toe nail a few years ago. After seeing another doctor, who made it worse, he referred me to Dallas Podiatry Works. The doctor there was able to fix my problem. I’m not great with reviews, all I can tell you is that this doctor and staff will have you up and running or doing whatever it is you do in no time. You will be in great hands. You’d be a fool not to use this doctor. Now its time to visit him again for the other toe.

Google User

Been having bad ankle pains for 6 months was referred here and it was a great visit ladies in the front desk medical assistants and the Doctor were all very friendly and make you feel very comfortable.

Elizabeth G.

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