Is it normal for my child to walk like this?

Many parents often come to health professionals concerned about the way their child walks. Here, we will cover 3 common concerns parents have regarding the alignment of their child’s legs when walking!

Knocked knees and bowed legs:

Knocked knees, medically known as “genu valgum”, is when a person who is standing straight have their knees touching while their feet are apart. A moderate amount of knocked knee is normal for kids aged 2-4 years old. This may persist up to 7-8 years of age.

Bowed legs, medically known as “genu varum”, is when person who standing straight walks have their feet touching each other, while their knees are apart. A moderate amount of bowing is normal in children up to 2 years old. It is most commonly seen in those who are obese for their age and could also be contributed by a familial tendency.

Remember, both of these should be painless for your child!

It is recommended that your child sees a health professional if:

  • It is affecting your child’s walking or running. They may be in pain or frequently trip over
  • if the abnormality is not symmetrical or only affects one leg
  • if your child has severe bowed legs or knocked knees above the age in which it would be considered normal

Advice and treatments a physiotherapist may provide include:

  • Don’t let your child “W” sit! Often abnormal knocked knees can be caused by stresses on the inner aspect of the knee caused by “W” sitting. Encourage your child to sit on a small chair or cross their legs while playing
  • Exercises that strengthen the muscles in the leg to correct the alignment

Flat feet

Flat feet, medically known as “pes planus”, is when a person standing straight lacks an arch on the inner of the soles of their feet. Unless there is a congenital deformity of the feet diagnosed by a doctor at birth, it is normal to have flat feet in children aged 1-5 years. This is due to the fact they have a thick fat pad at the bottom of their feet and are still developing the muscle control required to form an arch.

Once again, normal flat feet should be painless for your child!

It is recommended that your child sees a health professional if:

  • are beyond 5 years old
  • they have ongoing issues from a structural congenital foot deformity or connective tissue disorders diagnosed at infancy
  • It is affecting your child’s walking or running. They may have poor exercise endurance due to pain in their feet
  • Your child is overweight, which may place more stress on the structures in the feet

How health professionals can help:

  • Podiatrists may be able to provide a orthotic to assist in arch formation
  • Physiotherapists can provide strengthening exercises for the muscles that form the arch or correct the alignment of the hip and knee. Remember that problems in one joint can affect the whole leg!
  • A dietitian and exercise physiologist can help your child have a healthy weight to ensure less stress is place on the feet

At Optimum Health Solutions, our physiotherapists, podiatrist, dietitians, and exercise physiologists make sure to keep up with current evidence and base our practice around current evidence, so we can make sure we are always giving our clients the best care and advice!


Espandar, R., Mortazavi, S.M.J. and Baghdadi, T., 2010. Angular deformities of the lower limb in children. Asian journal of sports medicine1(1), p.46.

Stolzman, S., Irby, M.B., Callahan, A.B. and Skelton, J.A., 2015. Pes planus and paediatric obesity: a systematic review of the literature. Clinical obesity5(2), pp.52-59.

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