Intoeing—a Common Childhood Pattern
New parents check to make sure all fingers and toes are present and ask doctors and nurses all sorts of questions, many centered on whether everything is normal. Questioning if your child’s health is normal is something that extends beyond that first day in the hospital, though.
As children continue to develop, you may notice that your child’s feet point in and begin to worry about it. There is often little need for concern, though, because intoeing is fairly common, and many children outgrow it by the age of 8 or 10 without the need for treatment.
Infant Foot Development
While the baby is in the womb, he or she is curled up in a rounded shape with legs and arms nestled against the tiny torso. Following birth, it will take time for your infant’s arms, hands, legs, and feet to develop muscle strength and be able to extend straight. In addition to muscle strengthening, bones also become stronger in time, and the feet, legs, and spine will begin supporting your child so that he or she can sit up, crawl, stand, walk, and eventually run.
There are three main conditions that can cause your child’s feet to curve inwards.
Metatarsus Adductus and an Infant’s Feet
With this condition, the front part of the foot is curved inward. This can be recognized by a sole of a foot that looks like a “quarter moon” shape. The severity can vary from a flexible, gradual curve of the foot to an extreme one that is rigid and stiff. You may be quite relieved to find out that the curved feet will eventually straighten out on their own, often around 6 months of age.
Dr. Sanjay Gandhi can monitor your baby’s foot development over the first few months to ensure there are no other issues, but treatment is likely not necessary. Should he recommend it, you may want to gently stretch your child’s foot into a straight position a couple of times every day. Child bones are still soft and pliable, so this will not cause any pain. Even in the case of very rigid and curved feet, the bones are soft enough that casts or special shoes could be used if needed.
Medial Tibial Torsion and a Toddler’s Shin Bone
In some cases of intoeing, the problem is higher up than the foot. With medial tibial torsion, a toddler will often stand bow-legged and feet appear to be in a pigeon-toed stance. This results from a twisted shin bone (tibia) that developed while in the womb. As with the case of metatarsus adductus, the condition may only need close monitoring to ensure that your child is developing in a normal manner.
In the past, special shoes and braces were commonly prescribed to address this issue, but they were never proven to actually promote quicker leg straightening, so they are no longer used. Instead of medical devices, we have found that the gait will correct naturally over time as the child walks and builds stronger leg muscles.
Femoral Anteversion and a Child’s Hips
As a child reaches “school age,” he or she may have either one or both legs that seem to turn in at the knees, to accompany inwards turning of the feet. This is the result of a condition known as femoral anteversion, which an upper thigh bone that is turned toward the inside.
Babies are often born with the top of their thighs twisted about 40 degrees inwards, but this twisting will disappear in time. As before, shoes and braces have not been proven to properly address this issue, either. The condition generally resolves itself by around the age of 10. In the event this does not happen, a surgical procedure to straighten the thigh and improve an abnormal gait may be recommended.
Comprehensive Child Foot Care in Manalapan, NJ
We do not want you to be nervous when you notice that your child is intoeing. If you have any questions, simply call our Manalapan, NJ office at (732) 446-7136. You can also schedule an appointment with A Step Up Podiatry, LLC for your child online today.