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Pigeon Toed is Not Normal

A client worried about his nine-year-old grandson being pigeon toed.

It made me remember my childhood. My right foot rolled inward, from the ankle so I walked on the outside of the foot, and was pigeon toed. I was quite small, probably aged 3 - 5, but still remember how I hated the braced shoes I had to wear to bed. I also had to wear sturdy, supportive shoes, instead of the popular sneakers the other kids wore, until 6th grade.

I am incredibly grateful that my mother was tough enough to make me do that! I am sure it was hard for her to tolerate my crying and screaming. I remember hiding those braces time after time. Once I even buried them under the trailer we lived in, but my Mother made me get them that night, with a switch. My feet straightened out and today, when I see an adult walking clumsily pigeon-toed, I send a mental thanks to Mom. I think I will call her and thank her again, now.

I did some internet research to educate myself and share that knowledge with him. The most common medical opinion I found is that this is normal in toddlers and small children and is not a concern because it straightens out on its own. However, nine would seem to me to be past the "small child" age so I would be worried and seek another opinion with a podiatrist or orthopedic physician.

I think it is sensible to get second opinions about important medical issues. I also think it is extremely important to educate myself as much as possible before going to a doctor so that I can ask sensible questions and understand the answers.

I discovered that orthotics can help a child's foot grow as normally as possible in addition to easing pain and helping one to walk longer, faster and stand longer by absorbing a lot of the pressure on the foot. When feet roll to the outside while walking, they do not absorb shock well. An orthotics that supports the arch and supplies more cushion can be very helpful.

A clubfoot is when the front part of the foot turns toward the big toe. The victim tends to walk on the outside of the foot, so kids who have it tend to trip a lot. Orthotics can really help change the mechanics of walking and, in kids where the bones have not stopped growing yet, can even help straighten the feet.

It makes sense that gravity and muscle-use patterns sculpt our bodies over time. Most children begin life with in-toeing, perhaps from curling up in the womb. When a child begins walking, the bones in the legs rotate and remodel themselves into a better shape for walking.

If you look at the bottom of a child's foot, while he is lying on his stomach, and see the outside edge curving outward he has a problem. If the foot is flexible, the curve can be usually be straightened with gentle stretching exercises. If the foot is rigid, it may require a cast and occasionally surgery to straighten it.

In conclusion, I think a responsible parent should do everything possible to insure that his/her children grow into healthy and productive people. Standing, walking and running, confidently and without pain, are essential to that goal. I suggested my client learn all he can and then take his grandson to a podiatrist or orthopedic for an examination and further discussion.

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