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Should I Worry About the Way My Son Walks?

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?
- Esther

Many toddlers walk with their feet turned in, which is sometimes called "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 rarely used now.

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:

Reviewed by: Rupal Christine Gupta, MD
Date reviewed: February 2015
Originally reviewed by: Alfred Atanda Jr., MD

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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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