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What Is Outtoeing?

By H. Lo
Updated May 17, 2024
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Outtoeing is a musculoskeletal condition most commonly seen in infants and children, although it can continue on into adolescence as well. Often referred to as a rotational problem affecting the lower extremities, the musculoskeletal condition is characterized by feet that point outward. This problem, along with the reverse, more common condition known as intoeing, is actually considered a normal variation of the lower extremities and usually corrects itself within a year or two. In the meantime, the majority of outtoeing, as well as intoeing, cases that occur typically do not cause the affected person to experience any functional problems. As such, a person with the condition normally does not require treatment.

When they are born, most babies have an external rotation of their hips, a normal condition that eventually corrects itself. In some children, though, the correction takes longer than usual to complete and causes outtoeing to occur, which is noticeable when the affected child begins to walk. Like with the external rotation of the hips, outtoeing also corrects itself, typically within a time frame of a year or so. A different cause of outtoeing that also usually resolves on its own is having a tibia or femur bone that twists outward. If everything proceeds as normal, the child will grow to have feet that point straight ahead or feet that angle slightly outward.

Outtoeing can manifest at various ages, but usually it becomes apparent within the first year or two of a child’s life. A trip to the doctor will diagnose the condition, as well as determine whether it is indeed a normal variant in the child’s development or something more severe. The child might undergo a physical examination and an assessment called the rotational profile. In addition, disclosure of family history is also helpful. To verify his diagnosis, the doctor might use imaging techniques such as a computed tomography (CT) scan, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or an x-ray.

While the condition might initially pose a few difficulties for children, those affected by outtoeing can, and often do, lead active and healthy lives. It is only in rare cases that outtoeing requires treatment. In general, the affected person will need to undergo surgery and have his bones rotated. Bracing or shoewear are not recommended treatment options as they are not effective in correcting the condition. After proper treatment, the affected person might find that his foot fits more comfortably inside a shoe.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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