What is Out-Toeing and Can it be Corrected?

child barefoot.

Out-toeing, also known as “duck feet”, is a condition where both feet appear to turn outwards. It’s basically the opposite of in-toeing or “pigeon toes” where both feet are pointed inwards.

Both conditions occur in many young children and are often temporary. But there are cases where out-toeing can also persist into adulthood, if not addressed early on. 

If you think your kid has out-toeing, read on as we dig deeper into this condition, what causes it, and what you can do about it.

What causes out-toeing?

Although out-toeing is often characterised by the jutting out of the foot, it’s actually the legs that stick outward, not the feet. Both your legs have two long bones called the tibia (bone between the ankle and knee) and femur (the thigh bone) which can rotate externally, causing the out-toeing.

Several factors cause this to happen to your kids. Some include:

  • Genetics
  • Poor fetal positions of the legs during pregnancy
  • Muscle trauma
  • Flat footedness
  • Congenital bone deformity
  • Slipped capital femoral epiphysis

The last one is a condition on the hips where the ball at the top of the femur is slipped backwards. This condition often occurs in teens that are still growing.

In adults, out-toeing might be due to the following factors:

  • Leg, hip, ankle, or foot injuries
  • Muscle tightness
  • Poor posture

Can out-toeing still be corrected?

Normally, your kids with out-toeing can outgrow the condition as they gain more experience with walking and other activities that involve their legs. This typically goes away between the ages of 6 and 8.

If you’re an adult who has mild or extreme out-toeing, you may need to consult a podiatrist to see if the out-toeing can still be corrected using traditional treatments like physiotherapy and the use of custom orthotics.

In extreme cases, surgery may be required. This is why early assessment and treatment are needed for your kids who have this condition. 

When should you see a doctor?

If you’re an adult who has mild out-toeing but it doesn’t affect you when doing activities such as walking or running, it’s likely to not be of concern. But if you still wish to get an expert opinion about your condition, you’re free to do so.

If you have a child who has out-toeing, and the condition persists beyond the age of 6 or 8, you should bring them to a podiatrist for assessment.

Other signs your kids need expert help are:

  • Limping or falling when running
  • Pain in the legs, hips, or groin
  • Sudden inability to walk
  • Imbalance or instability

How is out-toeing diagnosed?

Out-toeing is typically diagnosed by a physical examination. During the examination, the podiatrist will look at the way the person stands and walks, as well as the position of their feet and legs.

The podiatrist may also ask the person to perform certain movements or exercises to help determine the cause of the out-toeing.

In some cases, imaging tests such as X-rays may be ordered to help diagnose the condition and rule out any underlying conditions that may be contributing to the out-toeing.

Treatment for Out-Toeing

As we’ve mentioned earlier, out-toeing may resolve on its own over time as the child grows and their muscles and bones develop properly.

For extreme cases, treatment may be necessary to help correct the alignment of the feet and legs. And it will ultimately depend on the underlying cause of the condition. Treatment options may include:

  • Stretching and strengthening exercises to help improve muscle strength and flexibility
  • Orthotic devices such as shoe inserts or braces to help align the feet and legs properly
  • Physical therapy to help improve muscle strength and flexibility
  • Surgery to correct any underlying conditions that may be contributing to the out-toeing

If you or your child has out-toeing, consulting a doctor and/or a podiatrist to determine the best treatment plan for your specific situation is the best course of action.

How You Can Help Treat Out-Toeing at Home

There are some things you can do at home to help improve your kid’s condition. Below are only some of them:

  • Encourage your child to engage in activities that promote healthy muscle and bone development, such as running, jumping, and climbing
  • Make sure your child wears shoes that are properly fitted and support their feet and legs
  • Avoide shoes with high heels or hard, inflexible soles that can cause the toes to point outward
  • Stretching and strengthening exercises can help improve muscle strength and flexibility. Some examples of stretches that may be beneficial for out-toeing include toe raises, calf stretches, and hip stretches.

These home remedies, however, are only supplementary. Make sure to consult a doctor first for diagnosis and treatment. They can provide proper guidance on the best exercises and activities to help fix your child’s out-toeing.

Contact Watsonia Podiatry clinic

If you think your child is “out-toed” and starts to feel any pain or discomfort, book an appointment with Watsonia Podiatry or call us today for an assessment!