Some toddlers walk with a duck-footed gait as they learn to use their new-found ability to walk — it’s also known as out-toeing. This means that they waddle-walk with their toes pointed outward rather than forward.

Out-toeing can also sometimes manifest for the first time in adolescents, teens, or adults. It’s not always a cause of concern, but it’s worth knowing the difference between a natural duck-footed gait and a condition that impacts how you walk.

What does being duck-footed mean?

Out-toeing is a type of torsional deformity. It typically occurs when one of the leg’s two longest bones turn toward the outside of the leg, causing the foot to jut out:

  • tibia: located between the knee and ankle
  • femur: located between the hip and knee

Out-toeing can occur in one or both legs. In many young children, out-toeing is typically temporary and short-lived. But duck-footedness can persist into adolescence or beyond, sometimes well into adulthood.

Having flat feet can also cause the appearance of out-toeing.

Is it similar to being pigeon-toed?

You may be familiar with a more common torsional deformity called in-toeing — being pigeon toed. It’s essentially the opposite of being duck-footed.

With a pigeon-toed gait, you walk with your toes pointed in an inward direction rather than outward.

What are the symptoms of being duck-footed?

Out-toeing can make a child look like they’re waddling from side to side. You may notice that your child’s knees also appear to point outward.

Out-toeing is not typically associated with pain or discomfort. It also doesn’t usually interfere with a child’s ability to walk, run, or be mobile in any way.

Out-toeing may be more obvious when a child runs than when they walk. Parents may also notice that their child’s shoes wear out or have more noticeable scuff marks on the outer edges of the shoes.

You can check for out-toeing in adults by standing naturally with your feet about 1 foot apart. Look down at the position of your toes — if they point outward instead of straight ahead, you are probably duck-footed.


What are the causes of being duck-footed?

There are several common causes of out-toeing in toddlers or children, including:

  • family history of being duck-footed
  • foetal position of the legs in the uterus prior to birth
  • resting position of the legs during infancy
  • being flat-footed

Should I be concerned?

In adults, out-toeing may be mild or extreme. If the condition doesn’t stop your child from participating in activities such as walking, running or swimming, it is not cause for alarm.

If you are concerned about your child’s gait at any point during their development, call and book an appointment with us today.

Children typically outgrow duck-footedness between the ages of 6 and 8. Here are some tips for when you should see a doctor if your child’s condition persists beyond that time or if you’re experiencing symptoms:

  • Your child limps or falls often while walking or running.
  • Your child has ongoing or intermittent pain in the legs, hips, or groin. Pain can be mild or severe, and may be ongoing or come on suddenly.
  • Your child has a sudden inability to walk (this may also indicate slipped capital femoral epiphysis).
  • Your condition is severe and causes pain, imbalance, or instability.


When should I see a Podiatrist?

Any feeling of pain, discomfort, or a lack of mobility should prompt a call the for both children and adults. You should also contact your Resonance Podiatrist if your child often falls or has developed a limp.

Your Resonance Podiatrist can determine if your condition is caused by muscle tightness or an outwardly turned tibia or femur. This can help determine what exercises may be most effective.

Are there any possible complications of being duck-footed?

When severe out-toeing is left unchecked, it may eventually cause other conditions, such as:

  • Muscle atrophy in the lower legs and glutes
  • Knee pains
  • Ankle pains
  • flat feet
  • foot pain


The takeaway

Out-toeing, or being duck-footed, is a condition marked by feet that point outward instead of straight ahead.

It’s most common in toddlers and young children, who typically outgrow it by age 8. Adults can also become duck-footed as the result of a sedentary lifestyle, poor posture, injury, or other causes.

Contact your Resonance Podiatrist if you have any concerns about your child’s gait.


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