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A pigeon gait, also known as in-toeing, is a condition in which the front of the feet turn inward, leading to a walk which somewhat resembles that of a pigeon. In most cases, pigeon gait affects young children and is caused by abnormal orientation of the thigh, lower leg, or foot. Generally, pigeon gait corrects itself as children grow, and consequently it usually does not require treatment. If a child’s abnormal gait does not improve once he has passed through toddlerhood, however, it may be advisable to consult a physician.
The immediate cause of a pigeon gait is an inward turning of the feet. When an individual with inward-turning feet walks, his gait often has a shuffling or waddling quality that, in the eyes of some, resembles the gait of a pigeon. It should be noted that in the medical community, this condition is known as in-toeing, and that some may find the term pigeon gait to be hurtful.
Most often, a pigeon gait affects very young children, becoming apparent as they begin to walk. The underlying cause of this type of gait is usually the abnormal orientation of the bones in the thigh, lower leg, or foot, which in turn causes the feet to turn inward. Often, these bones rotate inward prior to birth in order to allow a baby to fit within the womb comfortably. It is believed that a genetic predisposition for in-toeing may be passed from parent to child. Less commonly, this type of gait may result from an abnormality of the muscles, the nervous system, or both.
Usually, a pigeon gait gradually corrects itself as a child’s walk develops. Physicians once attempted to speed in-toeing correction using special shoes or braces, but as of the early 21st century, most researchers agree that these treatments have no real effect on the condition. Thus, while this type of gait abnormality may seem worrying to new parents or guardians, it actually tends to be a temporary condition that resolves itself without the need for medical intervention.
In rare instances, in-toeing may persist beyond toddlerhood. Children who continue to walk with an abnormal gait beyond age three or four should be evaluated by a physician. It may be possible that an older child with a lingering tendency for in-toeing needs corrective surgery, or that he has an underlying neuromuscular condition that needs attention.