Metatarsus Adductus (Bowed Legs)

  • Posted by Dr. Jay Gordon

Q. My daughter is almost a year of age, and a friend of ours (whose children have this problem) was examining her feet/ankles yesterday when she explained to me that she believes she has Metatarsus Adductus. She explained to me what the treatment was for her children, and what can happen if it is left untreated. My daughter has just started walking, and she barely walks at all, when she does. I am concerned that maybe she didn’t walk prior to now because of this, or that she is barely walking now because of this, or whether or not I should even worry. I guess this is just another symptom of “first-time mommy” syndrome. I was wondering if you had any experience with this at all? My friend said I should make sure she sees a podiatrist, not an orthopedist. I’m concerned and confused and I would very much like your opinion.

A. Metatarsus Adductus used to worry docs (and parents) until we figured out that it is normal and corrects itself in 99% of kids. Braces, reverse last shoes, casts and surgery were done–needlessly!–in years past and we virtually never do any of those things anymore.

Toddlers who can’t walk because they trip over their feet every second or third step might need evaluation. Others do not. Podiatrists give everybody orthotics and many people actually benefit from them but kids rarely really need them at this age.

One thing is crucial: either NO shoes at all or little “sock shoes” for the first year or two of walking to allow the muscles on the bottom of them feet to get stronger and to give the ankles the LEAST support possible so they get stronger, too. When babies’ feet are “locked up” in those rigid white Stride-Rites, muscles are allowed to atrophy and the disconnection from the ground leads to lots more falling. (Ever have a cast on your arm for 4 weeks? The inactivity is similar and requires weeks and weeks of rehab.)

If you have large doubts, see a pediatric orthopedist to get a formal opinion and then possibly still wait before doing anything.