My legs are built wrong. Is there a solution?
April 21, 2009 6:30 PM   Subscribe

I'm 40 years old. Is there any way to bend my bones into another position if they're malformed?

My legs are a disaster area. I have to turn my (very, very flat) feet out 90 degrees just to get my knees to face forward. If I aim my feet straight ahead, I'm not bow-legged (thighs are straight), so much as... I don't know, shins-bent-into-arc legged? And it hurts my ankles. It's like every joint from my hips to my toes was built wrong.

I don't have plantar fascitis, ITBS, or any other foot/leg-related problems.

Okay, so, lucky you - you get to see my 40-year-old legs for reference's sake:

Here my feet are parallel to one another, and facing forward. You can't really tell in the photo, but if I were to bend at the knees, they'd knock into one another at a severe angle.

Here my feet are at a 90-degree angle to one another (first position, for you ballet people out there). In this position, if I bend my knees, they go straight forward, parallel, like a regular pair of legs would do if their feet were facing straight forward.

If I were to turn my feet into a 180-degree line (and I can), my knees would bend slightly outward. This is why I never got far in ballet.

Does anyone know if there are leg braces or something that could bend my bones into some kind of normal shape? I wouldn't be at all embarrassed to wear them, if it meant that I could eventually walk and run like a person with regular legs. Or is it far too late to reshape bones at my age?

(Also - I've never understood why people with flat feet should get walking/running shoes with high arches, or orthotics. Doesn't that just throw your whole body out of whack?)
posted by tzikeh to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Your bones are constantly rebuilding themselves. In theory, bones could change shape. In distraction osteogenesis, they make leg bones longer by surgically breaking them, then putting the ends very near one another and allowing them to grow a bit together, then pull apart more, etc. If they can do that, certainly the shape could change.

How practical this is, I do not know.

Those arches in your feet are to store energy. If you do not have any arches, when you walk, you store no energy in the spring of your foot, as you have no spring. Instead, it's a mushy bag of bones hitting the ground.
posted by adipocere at 7:04 PM on April 21, 2009

Response by poster: GleepGlop - I figured the "ask my doctor" bit, but I also figured someone here might be an osteopath, or just have an answer. You never know what the hive-mind can help with.
posted by tzikeh at 7:11 PM on April 21, 2009

I am in the same boat as you. I'm 30. I have insanely flat feet. My physical therapist said that she had never seen flatter feet. My right foot especially turns out over 45 degrees when I make my knees face forward. The term for what we are is "duck footed". It's the opposite of "pigeon toed". What is it with leg defects and birds? I used to be self conscious about it. When I was younger, somewhere between 12-13, I went to an orthopedic surgeon. He said, "Sure we can fix that with some hip surgery. We'll have you walking again in six weeks." Eff that! As self-conscious as I was, that was not something I wanted to deal with, so I passed. And that was back when I was 12, and my body was still growing. Now, there is no healing, and it doesn't matter, because I don't care. My feet turn out, and my right leg is longer than my left one. I bounce when I walk because of it. Its _very_ easy to identify me in a crowd. Whatever.

Most of the time, I'm fine with this. Every now and then, though, I wonder about it. I turn my feet straight when I walk, and I wonder if I've always walked like this if things would've bent back to "normal". But then I realize, I'm not a kid. My body is not growing anymore. When I was in 5th grade, I snapped my arm in half, and it healed in less than two months. Now, I'd be screwed.

I truly know how you feel about this. I'm telling you not to mess with it. Embrace it. The potential negatives far outweigh the benefits.
posted by AaRdVarK at 7:28 PM on April 21, 2009

Ask a physical therapist if it's partially a muscular problem that would be helped by strength training.

Re. flat feet: I used to have flat arches too. However, after a couple of years of doing compound strength exercises while barefoot (deadlifts, military presses, squats, etc), my arches toned up and are now perfectly normal. When I asked a podiatrist about it, he said "any exercises that strengthen the legs strengthen the feet." Toe raises and calf raises are favorites of mine, and for cardio I usually run barefoot on a trampoline. Good luck!
posted by aquafortis at 8:06 PM on April 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

This doesn't relate to the bone problem, but, from the pictures it looks like your knees are hyperextended. You legs will look more typical if you learn to stand with a slight bend in your knee. It will also probably make your back feel better (at least it did in my experience).
posted by a22lamia at 8:20 PM on April 21, 2009

One completely anecdotal data point:

I've never had flat feet, but as a kid I did have a tendency to walk with my toes pointing outwards. It threw my back and hips into weird alignments and eventually a physiotherapist told me I'd have to force myself to walk with my feet parallel to each other.

It hurt a lot at first, but over a few months my muscles and tendons lengthened and shortened in the right places, and walking normally began to feel completely natural. When I was older, I fell back into bad walking habits again, but managed to re-align my gait on my own, aged 19 or 20.

So, I don't know of any way to unbend your 40-year-old bones, but it may not be your bones that need to change. It could be that your muscles and tendons need to be strengthened or stretched to stop them from pulling your bones in weird directions. You should see a physiotherapist.
posted by embrangled at 1:34 AM on April 22, 2009

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