When your child starts walking for the first time, it’s an exciting time for both of you. But issues that arise that impact your child’s mobility can quickly dampen this joyous period of life.
Various foot and ankle conditions can cause your child to have an atypical walk; however, according to board-certified podiatrist Thomas Rambacher, DPM, FACFAS, FAPWCA, from Podiatry Hotline Foot & Ankle in Mission Viejo, California, most of these problems are correctable. These are the conditions that can cause gait issues in children and how to correct them.
What can cause gait abnormalities in children?
It’s relatively common for children to walk in a way that is unusual, especially when they’re first learning to walk. Children sometimes grow out of these abnormalities on their own, but in other instances, it can indicate an underlying issue.
Some of the more common foot conditions that impact walking include:
Childhood flat feet mean your child never develops an arch in their foot as they grow. This means that when they walk, their entire foot touches the ground instead of the arch staying off the ground, which can be painful.
A club foot is a genetic condition where your child is born with feet that are pointed sideways or upward. Without correction, your child won’t be able to walk correctly.
This condition causes the metatarsal bones and the front part of the child’s foot to turn inward, making walking more difficult. Some forms of this condition are flexible, meaning the toes can be manipulated back into position, while other forms cause the toes to stay rigid.
Tibial torsion means your child’s lower leg incorrectly turns internally or externally instead of pointing straight ahead. This means your child either walks with their feet turned in (in-toeing) or outward (bow-legged).
Other medical abnormalities in the feet, legs, and hips, as well as neuromuscular disorders like cerebral palsy, can also affect your child’s walk.
When to get gait abnormalities assessed
You should have your child evaluated by Dr. Rambacher if they have any obvious foot or leg deformities. In addition, schedule an appointment if your child:
- Walks on their toes
- Walks in toed or pigeon-toed
- Has a bow-legged walk
- Walks with their knees together
You should also schedule an assessment if your child walks with a visible limp for any length of time. During an assessment, Dr. Rambacher evaluates your child’s gait and foot structure for abnormalities with visual assessment and imaging techniques like X-rays and MRI.
Treatment options for walking abnormalities
The treatment plan for your child depends on Dr. Rambacher’s specific diagnosis. Some children outgrow issues with their walk or feet, so he recommends monitoring your child to see if there are changes over time.
For foot or walking abnormalities your child won’t grow out of, Dr. Rambacher prescribes a treatment plan. Nonsurgical treatment can include wearing shoes and orthotics that balance your child’s gait and exercises or physical therapy.
More serious foot problems are treatable with reconstructive surgery, which realigns the bones, tendons, and ligaments in your child’s feet and ankles to make it easier for them to walk.
If your child is having difficulties walking or walking unusually, Dr. Rambacher can help. Contact us to schedule an assessment for your child.