Toddler’s Pigeon Toed: Causes & Treatment Options

As a child develops and starts to walk you may notice what some call pigeon toed waking or intoeing. These two words are used to describe the inward turn of your child’s foot when they are walking along or maybe even your own foot issues you might deal with. As a toddler is growing their body is constantly changing and these problems you notice now may not be an issue in a few months or years to come. How can you know if the intoeing problem you’re seeing with your child is a problem that needs further attention? Here is a look at the causes of pigeon toed walking and what you can do about it if your child needs further observation.

Causes of Intoeing And Varying Treatment Options

There are three main causes of pigeon toed walking. One is when the metatarsus adductus in the foot has a curve inward instead of being straight as it should be. In most cases this is a flexible tendon and can be easily fixed wearing braces or doing stretches to straighten it back out. In extreme cases surgery may be needed.

The intoeing can also be caused due to a twisting of the tibia bone. This will come from the knee area and it causes the shin to be twisted as well, thus making your child walk pigeon toed. This type of intoeing is most commonly seen in children and toddlers as they are beginning to learn to walk. On most scenarios, this fixes itself as your child grows and begins walking more and more. Once the leg bone has stopped growing, if your child is still walking in this manner then surgery may be necessary to fix the twisting of the bone.

Between the ages of 2 and 4 years old the child may start to show intoeing that is coming from a problem in the hip area. The femoral anteversion can have a twist in the upper thigh area causing the walking problems. Once this problem has shown up they typically will grow out of it by the time they are nearing 8 years of age. If not, then a doctor should be consulted to see if there are underlying issues that need to be addressed further.

If your child starts showing signs of this as they are beginning to walk, then in most cases you can let them continue to grow and walk. They will most likely straighten their feet and legs as they learn to walk more. However, if this shows up after the age of three or doesn’t seem to be getting better, it’s time to consult your doctor. They can do an examination to see what needs to be done and what course of treatment to follow.

Types Of Intoeing

Intoeing typically occurs in infants and children under the age of 10. The appearance of the condition is apparent with the toes pointing inwards instead of straight ahead, thus commonly referred as “pigeon-toed”. Some infants are born with it, caused by the position in the womb. Others gradually develop it or the intoeing becomes noticeable after they started walking.

Usually, children outgrow intoeing. Their feet would straighten out as their legs grow longer without the use of casts, braces and surgery. Intoeing does not cause any pain or trouble in learning to walk. Only in severe cases that patients would trip and stumble often as a result of the conflicting directions that the feet are pointing.

Intoeing should not be confused with Hammertoes, which is a more severe deformity of the second, third or forth toe. It got its name from the way the middle joint of the toe is bent downwards like a hammer. While intoeing does not affect the child’s daily functions and would naturally correct itself over time, hammertoes causes pain, growth of corns and calluses, discomfort in wearing regular shoes, muscle imbalance, and these symptoms would worsen if left untreated. Surgery may even be required if it is diagnosed late.

To know the cause of intoeing, patient has to be diagnosed with the specific type of intoeing.

Metatarsus Adductus

This is a common birth defect in which the middle of the foot to the toes are turned inwards. Most of the time, it gets better after a few months. But if the condition persists, casts and special shoes would usually correct the alignment without the need for surgery.

Tibial Torsion

Because of the position in the womb, tibial torsion may occur even before the infant is born. The tibia, or lower leg, is bent inwards, making the feet twist inwards as well. Special shoes and therapy would not help but it usually goes away after the tibia grows longer. But if it does not get better even up to 8 years old and it affects the walking drastically, surgery may be required.

Femoral Anteversion

This occurs when the thighbone is turned inwards and may not be noticeable until the child is about 5 years old. As with tibial torsion, special shoes and therapy would not help but the condition improves with age. If walking is affected and causing significant tripping, surgery may be considered with the prerequisite that the child is at least older than 9 years old.