Torsional Deformity

What Is It?

The dictionary defines pigeon-toed as "having the toes turned inward." No such colorful term can be found for feet that point outward. Both of these foot problems can be caused by a problem that doctors call torsional deformities. This is when the long bones of the leg are turned to the inside or outside so that the toes of the feet do not point straight ahead. Either of the two main bones in the leg can be affected the femur (between the hip and the knee) or the tibia (the larger of the two bones between the knee and the ankle). One or both legs can be affected.

Torsional deformities can lead to toes that point inward (in-toeing) or toes that point outward (out-toeing). Parents often worry that in-toeing or out-toeing will permanently interfere with their child's ability to walk and run normally. However, in most young children, in-toeing or out-toeing is caused by a torsional deformity that appears for a short period, and then disappears during the normal stages of leg development. Most torsional deformities are temporary and correct themselves by age six to eight. In rare cases, in-toeing or out-toeing is a sign of a permanent bone deformity or other problem that requires medical attention.

These conditions may be related to one or more of the following factors:

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »