Do your toes point out when you walk? If so, you may wonder "Is toe out walking bad? Should your feet point straight ahead when you walk?"
How Bad Is Duck Feet Walking?
Toe out walking is sometimes referred to as duck feet walking due to the resemblance of how a baby duck walks.
If you look on the internet about out-toeing or "duck feet walking", you'll see headlines such as:
"Duck Feet Walking: The Most Common and Most Dangerous Walking Problem"
"Why You Need to Stop Duck Feet Walking."
But is duck feet walking REALLY that bad?
Watch this video to learn when duck feet walking is bad, who might actually benefit from toe out walking, and how to walk in a way that's best for your body.
What Is Duck Feet Walking?
"Duck feet walking" is walking with your feet turned. The medical term for it is out-toeing.
Often that contributes to a flattening of your arch with your hips internally rotating.
That can cause stress on your ankles, plantar fascia, knees, and hips.
So it's no wonder that people say that duck feet walking is so bad.
If you go out in a crowd of people and look around, you probably don't see one person that's built exactly like you.
So there's no single precise way of walking that works for everybody.
What Causes Toe Out Walking?
There are people who are structurally more inclined to walk with their feet towed out.
When looking at how your feet point when you're walking, you can't just look at the feet in isolation.
Your feet are connected to your knees and your hips. Once you plant your foot on the floor, Those joints no longer move independent of each other.
So you need to have all your other joints in alignment before your foot is planted.
Some people are structurally built such that their feet naturally toe out.
The ball of your hip joint normally points about 15 degrees forward.
In most people, the shaft of their thigh bone (femur) normally twists 8-15 degrees forward so that their toes end up pointing straight ahead, or only 0-7 degrees of out-toeing.
However, some people don't have that much (or any) twisting through their femur, which is known as retroversion. This is the structural alignment of there bones, meaning you can't change it.
These people naturally tend to demonstrate
However, if your hips are retroverted and you try to force your feet to point straight ahead when you're walking, you're actually causing excessive internal rotation at your hips, which can create problems.
How To Tell If You Should Toe Out When You Walk
So first of all, how do you know if you naturally toe in or toe out?
There's a clinical test called the Craig's test that can easily be done by a physical therapist.
However, if you're just trying to get an idea for yourself, turn your feet all the way in as far as you can go. Then turn your feet out as far as you can go.
Then come back to a mid-range position that feels pretty comfortable.
This should be pretty close to how your feet naturally fall.
Note if your feet point straight ahead, toe in, or toe out.
How To Fix Toe Out Walking (Duck Feet)
If your feet are flat, dome your feet to lift the arch. You can do this by slightly scrunching your toes and putting your weight a little more on the outside of your foot.
Doing that will naturally turn your feet in.
If you are really toed out, it's probably not going to make your feet point straight ahead.
However, that scooping action is helpful when you're walking because it helps dynamically support your arch using the muscles on the inner side of your ankle.
These muscles are the:
- Tibialis anterior
- Flexord Digitorum Longums (bends the small toes)
- Flexor Hallucis Longus (bends the big toe)
The acronym for them is:
Tom, Dick, and Harry
The "an" in the word and stand for the tibial artery and tibial nerve.
Duck feet walking can cause entrapment of the tibial nerve at the inner side of the ankle. This condition is known as tarsal tunnel syndrome, which can pain on the bottom of the foot.
This type of foot pain can be misdiagnosed as plantar fasiicitis.
Fortunately though, doming the arch as shown above helps fix duck footed walking and also helps prevent both plantar fasciitis and tarsal tunnel syndrome.
What To Do If You Naturally Toe Out When Walking
If you naturally walk with out-toeing, scooping your ankles as shown above can get your feet pointing forward more.
That's because the muscles shown above move your ankle around a 45 degree axis at the subtalar joint of your foot.
When walk more on the outside your foot, it forces your toes to point straighter ahead.
So rather than thinking about pointing your toes forward when you walk, just think about lifting your arch and scooping your foot, and that will naturally help your feet point more forwards.
If you're really out-toed though, your feet will still probably toe out a little bit, and that's OK.
The path of motion of your walking will just change a little bit.
You'll hit more on the outer side of your foot. Then you'll roll across the ball of your foot to push off of the big toe.
Keep your arch domed throughout.
As you go to push off, you'll push off in an angle toward the direction the other foot is pointing.
So, you'll move in a side to side motion, almost like a speed skater or cross-country skier.
So that's how you walk if your feet naturally turn out while still preventing some of the typical problems caused by duck feet walking.
In summary, not everyone is built the same. Some people naturally toe in, and some people naturally toe out when walking.
If you naturally toe out, then you don't want to force your feet to point straight ahead when walking.
However, doming your arches can help you to minimize how duck-footed you look when you walk. Additionally, walking in then manner shown above can help minimize some of the adverse consequences typically associated with toe out walking.
Need help to walk better?
If you live in the St. Louis area and need help to improve your walking, we'd be happy to help you here at More 4 Life.
Just tap the button below to request an appointment with one of our specialist physical therapists.