I have been approached many times, as a physical therapist, by parents who are concerned with the way their children are walking especially from the ages of 1-5. The concerns vary from; one or both feet turning in, feet turning out, walking on toes, knees coming in, legs looking bowed, flat feet, legs kicking out while running, frequent falling and more. Some of these variations can be normal depending on the child’s stage in development.
When children first learn to walk, they typically have a wide base of support and the legs can look bowed out. This is normal until the child becomes more stable and the bones of the lower extremities begin to develop through bearing weight. After this stage, toddlers will often walk with their knees inward and with feet pointed inward slightly. This is also normal from the ages of 2-5 but should be assessed of the feet turning in seems excessive.
This is also the age where you may see kids walking on their tiptoes. While this can be normal during this age if the child is up on their toes more than 75% of the time while in standing, they should be assessed by a physical therapist to determine if intervention is needed. The earlier you begin intervention the greater success you will have. By the age of 6-7, the child should be walking with a more typical gait with good alignment at the knees and feet. This is also the age where the arches of the feet should be developed.
If at this stage you notice that the child’s feet are flat or the lower extremity alignment seems off, they should be assessed by a physical therapist to determine if intervention is needed which could be as simple as changes to footwear or the addition of orthotics, either over the counter or custom made. There is a lot going on with the development of the lower extremities and the motor planning of the gait cycle from the time a child learns to take their first steps to early adolescence. If you have concerns regarding the way your child is walking, reach out to TEAM 4 Kids and a physical therapist will be happy to assess the way your child is walking and recommend intervention if any is needed.