Why Kids Waddle: Explaining Out-Toeing

The evolution of life

One of the great joys of any new parent: watching your once-newborn, slowly but surely, learn to crawl, then pull themselves up on their feet, and finally take those first few brave, unsteady steps forward.

There’s a reason we call them “toddlers,” of course. Kids take time to get the natural cadence and rhythm of walking down pat—their bones are still soft and growing, and their bodies haven’t taken a more adult shape. However, some kids may have a few more alignment issues than most to overcome. One relatively uncommon condition is out-toeing, a catch-all term for a series of related gait abnormalities in which kids “waddle” with their toes pointed outward.

It’s not clear exactly why some kids develop out-toeing—family history is thought to play a role, perhaps along with a child’s position in the womb. But whatever the genesis, the practical issue is that a set of bones in the leg—either the feet, shins (external tibial torsion), femurs (femoral retroversion), or hips—are turned a little further outward than normal. All these conditions cause the feet and toes to point outward, though each causes a slightly different gait and may be most obviously present at different stages of your child’s development.

Although out-toeing is much rarer than intoeing, the good news is that, like its more-heralded sibling, out-toeing almost always resolves naturally as your child grows up. It is, however, a good idea to take your little one in for an initial evaluation as soon as you notice any unusual gait patterns, since in rare cases there could be an underlying condition that needs treatment. Otherwise, the best thing you can do is simply observe your child as he or she grows up.

If your child is learning to walk, run, and play normally, without any evidence of difficulty or discomfort, there should be nothing to worry about. However, if you notice that the out-toeing is worsening, asymmetrical, causing limping or pain, or has not improved by age 6-8, check in with us again.

Dr. Keith McSpadden is deeply committed to the health and well-being of your entire family, from infants to centenarians. If you notice any unusual patterns in the way your little one stands or walks, give North Austin Foot & Ankle Institute to make sure he or she is growing up healthy and strong. To schedule an appointment at Cedar Park or Round Rock, TX, give us a call at 512-593-2949 today.

Posted on September 29, 2015 and filed under General.