Crooked legs — "outtoeing"?

Originally Published: February 1, 2008 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: July 18, 2011
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Dear Alice,

I could not find anything related to this in your archives. I'm not sure if this is relevant to my problem or not, but I am a skinny, 19 year old male, and I have no history of sprained ankles, broken legs, or foot injuries.

My feet naturally point about 45 degrees out from my knees. I have always walked awkwardly. I have also had a lot of trouble with shoes wearing out unusually quickly and hurting my feet when they are new.

I tried pointing my feet forward, but that hurt my knees by forcing them to point inwards. I can straighten both my knees and my feet, but it feels very awkward and puts a lot of strain on my legs. I have also received a lot of comments on angle of my feet.

Is there a way to correct this problem without expensive surgery? Will I permanently injure my legs if I continue trying to force my feet into a straighter position? If pointing my feet forwards is not an option, can you recommend a comfortable way to walk with my feet as they are that will not look strange or put too much strain on my legs?

— Worried and Awkward

Dear Worried and Awkward,

A person takes thousands of steps a day, so it makes sense that you'd want to put your best foot (position) forward in order to look and feel most comfortable. From your descriptions, it sounds as if you may have a case of "outtoeing," where the feet naturally turn out from the legs, similar to a ballerina's stance.

Outtoeing can occur when the femur (upper leg bone) or tibia (lower leg bone) turns outward, causing the feet to appear spread out at a wide angle from each other. There are several causes of this condition, including fetal position in the womb before birth, an inherited tendency to walk this way, or sitting and/or standing in a particular position for extended periods of time. Outtoeing is most apparent during childhood and usually corrects itself without any special treatment. Your case may be one that was unnoticed or not corrected when you were younger, leading to its presence at your age.

Since there are several factors that may be responsible for your outtoeing, consulting with a health care provider or an orthopedist would definitely be a step in the right direction. S/he can run tests on the alignment of your legs, knees, and lower body, as well as collect other information about your posture and gait. This information can then be used to determine if your outtoeing is within the normal range and correct it if it's not. S/he can also discuss ways to reduce the foot and back pains caused by your walking and explore the possibility of an osteotomy (a surgical procedure that involves cutting the bones of the tibia or femur to allow them to realign).

The prospect of such a surgery may give you cold feet about speaking with a health care professional, but there may be other treatment options available to you. The sooner you seek help, the sooner you'll be comfortable in your own shoes!

Alice

February 15, 2008

21417

To the reader:

I've had 'intoeing' all my life (19 now)! Been diagnosed as pigeon-toed (means I walk with both feet pointing inwards) and have recieved some treatment to try to help,...

To the reader:

I've had 'intoeing' all my life (19 now)! Been diagnosed as pigeon-toed (means I walk with both feet pointing inwards) and have recieved some treatment to try to help, including insoles and I did when younger have my legs bound, but I had an allergic reaction to the wrap the used!

It causes me a lot of trouble, more so as I've grown up as it puts pressure in all the wrong places. I find walking painful and am very prone to blisters and such. I already have large, flat feet and this doesn't help!

Take to wearing supportive shoes — avoid sandals and such (though I have found some specially designed ones such as Crocs help) and beyond that the only thing I can reccomend is trying to speak to a professional chiropodist, and just focusing on walking with your feet straight (easy to say, hard to do, I know, I've walked awkwardly so long I find it just as painful to try walk straight!) If all else fails, take up a career as Charlie Chaplin impersonator? Know that's not much help, but just to say there's others walking funny out there too!