His toes turn in. His toes turn out. He’s limping. He’s falling all the time. What is normal for beginner-walkers and toddlers and what is cause for concern? Aunt Betty is sure he needs to see an orthopedic specialist, but Grandma says he’ll grow out of it! Here’s the 101 on baby walking patterns.
Dr. Sears (The Baby Book) explains the normal developmental timetable for little feet and legs:
- Birth – 3 years: Bowlegged
- Beginning to walk: Toeing out, ballerina style
- 18 months – 2-3 years: Toeing in
- After 3 years: walking with feet straight
- 3 years – teenager: knock-kneed
In the first 2 years of life, most babies walk with their toes facing inward. This is due to normal bowing of the legs due to their fetal position in the womb. Also, babies are naturally flat-footed (the arch begins to develop around age 3), so they compensate by turning feet inward to better distribute their weight. So if your toddler can run without tripping (most of the time!) then you shouldn’t be concerned about turned-in feet. It will self-correct.
Visit your doctor in any of the following cases:
- Your child is tripping over his feet more and more.
- Excessive toe walking. Most toddlers walk like this for a short time, but if it persists, have your doctor examine his calf muscles and Achilles tendons for tightness.
- Limping should always be taken seriously and be examined thoroughly.
- Refusing to walk. Do a home exam to see if your child has any noticeable bruises, swelling, redness, or tenderness. Check for splinters and pieces of glass. Note whether he experienced any recent falls, injuries, unexplained fevers, viruses, or emotionally traumatic events. Then talk to your doctor and let him examine your child, too.