Children’s Walking Styles

Now that your bub has learnt how to walk, you’ll be surprised to know that your little walker and some older kids often have a unique style of walking. Hear what the experts have to say.

WORDS ANGEL DREWGUS

When children start to walk, they will initially walk with their feet wide apart. According to Dr Ho Kah Ying Selina, senior consultant, Department of Neonatal and Developmental Medicine, SGH, this broad-based stance provides a child better stability and balance. Initially, your child will not be able to control her walking so well and may end up walking too fast and falling over. However, with time, she will learn to control her movements, and stop and change directions when walking.
    
Children learning to walk also go through various phases and walking styles. Here are some of them.

Toe Walking
Toddlers especially those learning to walk, stand on the balls of their feet or “tiptoe” out of habit or because it’s fun (i.e. dancing like a ballerina) but can walk normally when asked to do so, explains Dr Vina C. Tagamolila, resident physician, Department of Neonatal and Developmental Medicine, SGH. A child who is consistently toe-walking from three years of age may warrant a consult with a paediatrician. The problem can be due to:

  • Tight leg muscles which can be relieved by stretching exercises or short periods of plaster cast applications to facilitate stretching 
  • Neurodevelopmental delay related to muscular dystrophy, autism and cerebral palsy. In which case, a more detailed history and assessment are needed

Bow Legs
Genu varum, more commonly known as bow legs is a condition wherein the knees remain apart when a child stands with the feet and ankles together, explains Dr Tagamolila. Babies and toddlers’ legs normally have a bowed appearance.
    
It becomes more apparent as the child begins to stand and walk     (between 12 to 18 months) but typically the legs straighten out by age three, says Dr Tagamolila. As this is considered normal for children during the early stages of walking, no treatment is warranted at this time. Parents should be mindful of any limp or pain when their child is walking, is bow-legged in only one leg, and if the condition persists after three years of age.

Pigeon Toes
Children who walk with their feet turned in are described to have “in-toeing” or “pigeon-toes.” This can be due to a number of reasons and manifest at different ages, explains Dr Tagamolila.

  • The front portion of the foot turns inward (metatarsus adductus). It is commonly present at birth and is due to the baby’s flexed position inside the uterus during pregnancy. It improves slowly over time and most resolve by the age of six. 
  • The inward twisting of the shin bone/leg bone (internal tibial torsion) which is more often seen at the age when the child begins to walk to about two years of age.  
  • The inward turning of the thighbone (medial femoral torsion). This condition is common between the ages of three to eight years old.

In-toeing in early childhood often corrects itself over time and usually does not require treatment. However, says Dr Tagamolila, in cases when your child has problems walking, is in pain, and if one foot is more in-toed than the other, it is advisable to consult a doctor.

Knock Knees
Knock knees, also known as Genu Valgum, is a condition where a child’s legs curve in at the knees. According to Dr Miriam Stoppard in the Family Health Guide, it is common in children aged three to seven.

While this is a part of a child’s normal growth and development,
and usually corrects itself by the age of six or seven,
slight knock knees can sometimes continue into adulthood.

It might be a good idea to see a doctor if your child’s knock knees have not straightened by the time she is seven or eight, or if the problem seems to be worsening.

Thanks for sharing!