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What Is In-Toeing?

In-toeing is when feet point inward while walking. It happens in a lot of kids who are learning to walk. Sometimes people call it walking "pigeon-toed." Almost all toddlers who in-toe learn to run, jump, and play the same as other kids.

What Are the Signs of In-Toeing?

Kids with in-toeing walk or run with one or both feet turned in. Parents might notice an awkward style of walking or running or that the bottoms of the child’s shoes don’t wear evenly. In-toeing usually isn’t painful, but it can cause a child to trip and fall sometimes.

What Causes In-Toeing?

Most toddlers with in-toeing have it because:

  • A slight twist in the shinbones makes the feet turn in.
  • A slight twist in the thighbones makes the feet turn in.
  • Curved feet make the toes point in.

As a baby grows in the womb, some of the bones have to twist a little to fit into the small space. Those bones become untwisted over the first few years of life as kids grow. But in some kids, it takes longer to happen.

How Is In-Toeing Diagnosed?

During well-child checkups doctors ask how a child is growing and developing. They will check the bones and strength of the child’s legs and feet and watch the child walk. Sometimes they order X-rays to check the leg bones if they notice a problem. 

How Is In-Toeing Treated?

Most kids get better without any treatment. As they get older their bones slowly rotate and get straight. 

Special shoes and braces once were used to treat in-toeing. But doctors found that these didn't make it clear up any faster, so most don't use them now.

Very rarely, an older child might need surgery if the in-toeing doesn’t get better and causes trouble with tripping.

When Should I Call the Doctor?

If your child has in-toeing, call the doctor if:

  • Your child is limping or has pain in a hip or leg.
  • One foot turns in more than the other.
  • The in-toeing gets worse.

What Else Should I Know?

In-toeing gets better over time, but progress is slow and can be hard to notice. It may help if parents record a short video of their child walking about once or twice a year. This usually makes it easy to see that the child’s in-toeing is getting better.

Medically reviewed by: Kathryn A. Ritacco, PA-C
Date reviewed: March 2023