Have you managed to correct "duck footed" walking?
May 14, 2014 2:18 PM   Subscribe

If you once walked with an extreme turnout of the hips/feet, but corrected it, what did you do that worked? Or if you tried and weren't successful, what did NOT work?
posted by ladybird to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This is called "splay-foot," and my first stop would generally be to an orthopedist if you have access to one.
posted by rhizome at 2:25 PM on May 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is a question for your general practitioner who can refer you to an appropriate physical therapist or orthopedist depending on the issue, who can provide you advice based on your professionally assessed presentation.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:26 PM on May 14, 2014

Orthopedist and/or physical therapist is probably your best bet.
posted by brainmouse at 2:26 PM on May 14, 2014

Please assume that I am aware of the availability of professional medical advice, and kindly answer the question as it was asked. Thanks.
posted by ladybird at 2:28 PM on May 14, 2014

As asked, what I did was go to a good physical therapist, who helped analyze my walk and devise a series of exercises (both strengthening and stretching) to fix it, based on exactly where the problem was happening. I ended up slacking on the strengthening stuff in the long run, but I did this one standing stretch thing in the shower for a few years after the physical therapy ended, and have done them intermittently since, and they're pretty much fine now. I'm uncomfortable describing the exact stretches, since the area where my problem originated may or may not be the same as yours, and I can easily imagine that what I did could make you worse.
posted by brainmouse at 2:39 PM on May 14, 2014 [4 favorites]

Alexander Technique can be useful here.
posted by judith at 2:43 PM on May 14, 2014

Hope it's not derailing to ask if this is always a problem in need of a medical fix. When I went to a doctor about it as a kid they told me I could wear braces for a few years and that would probably make my feet point forward, but short of fundamentally altering my body I was just built this way - and trying to alter my body could cause damage to it in the process. It seems like it would be worthwhile to determine the cause of your duck walk so that you don't break your body in the process of trying to fix it.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 2:44 PM on May 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'll also add that I actually went to the the orthopedist who referred me to the physical therapist because of pain, not because of the "duck walk", it's just that the things that were causing the pain were also causing the turnout, so fixing that fixed the other thing too.
posted by brainmouse at 2:46 PM on May 14, 2014

I don't think this condition is always called "splay foot," counter to rhizome's comment above. Online definitions of splay foot suggest that it is a flat-footed condition correlated with low arches and poor ankle alignment. I am duck-footed, but my arches are high and my ankles are happy, thank you. Splay foot may be a cause of duck walking, but it's not the only cause.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 2:48 PM on May 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I kind of do so, because of a lot of ballet classes as a child. Yoga that really focused on alignment (Iyengar and Anusara) helped me the most; instructors looked at my entire posture and helped me make small corrections from my low back down through my arches and toes for better alignment. (I would only trust yoga instructors to do this if they've had extensive teacher training and certification.) Then I practiced those corrections on my own.

My feet still turn out, but not as much, and I'm much better at catching myself when I'm doing something potentially dangerous (like squats) and realigning my feet, knees, and hips beforehand.
posted by jaguar at 3:08 PM on May 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

This can be something of an occupational hazard.

The handful of classical ballerinas I've been around enough to overhear discussing it did not treat it as something they did voluntarily-- an impression you might get from the NYT article-- and the wife of one of my high school friends, who was a prima ballerina for more than a decade, went to a physical therapist when she retired specifically to try to get over it, but with limited success last I heard.

But that's where I'd look for advice if I were you: to a physical therapist who specializes in dancers and retired dancers.
posted by jamjam at 3:24 PM on May 14, 2014

How you can fix it might depend on what's causing it. Many dancers do pick up the habit of walking this way, despite warnings not to.

If this is something that a person is doing out of habit rather than due to something like a birth defect or skeletal issue, habits can be changed. The first step is to build awareness of how one walks, and then to figure out how to do it differently. Part of that will be remembering to line up the feet in a forward direction, and another part of that is to build up muscles that will help with that. Some ways of doing that might be Alexander Technique, yoga, other types of dance training than ballet, and physical therapy.

Also, in very young children out-toeing often goes away when they get older. If it does not, sometimes surgery is needed to change how the bones are lined up.
posted by yohko at 4:11 PM on May 14, 2014

I can't say if I corrected that or not. I can say that I took gymnastics briefly in youth and learned to walk gracefully, with one foot in front of the other, as if walking a balance beam. Part of keeping your balance on a balance beam is having the left shoulder and right hip move forward at the same time and alternating that with right shoulder and left hip moving forward at the same time. It looks very graceful and is very similar to how models are trained to walk on the catwalk (or so I gather from an article I read years ago about a woman who took just enough modeling training to present more gracefully in day to day life). And, also, my sister once told me I did not walk, I sashayed, fwiw.

So a gymnastics coach or modeling school might be helpful here. Martial arts, probably not so much. When I described this walk to my ex husband, he promptly mocked me by showing me the very funky way he was taught to walk in martial arts to keep his balance and it has nothing in common with looking graceful on a balance beam or cat walk but, yes, he had excellent balance -- if anything, better than mine, because his martial arts thingy kept his center of gravity lower.
posted by Michele in California at 4:48 PM on May 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Running habitually and weight loss helped me.
posted by pg at 4:54 PM on May 14, 2014

I actually had the opposite problem as a kid, and my pediatrician recommended ballet, which did fix it. That probably doesn't help you, but what might help is something I did to check my own gait-- walk across concrete with wet feet, or through wet sand, then turn and see how my footprints were lining up behind me, and then try it again and again. I think it built body awareness.
posted by instamatic at 5:10 PM on May 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm afraid this might not be helpful because it happened so long ago and I don't know any details, but I recall wearing corrective shoes for a few(?) years. It worked, as my step turns out now only when I'm extremely tired and even then not always.
posted by DrGail at 5:48 PM on May 14, 2014

I did this! I was able to correct it through:
- yoga (teacher who yelled at me a lot and would physically move my legs, hips, etc. to the "right" spot, which I resented at the time but actually helped)
- working with a personal trainer who put bands in different places on my legs and had me walk, squat, etc. with the bands on, and then later without them
- buying sneakers at a good fitness store where they analyzed the way I walked/ran to find a good shoe for my weird feet
- being super conscious of the way I walked, ran, and stood, and wearing appropriate footwear whenever possible. My default when standing is still to have slight turn-out, but it's nowhere near as pronounced as it used to be, and I am more conscious of it especially when exercising
posted by goodbyewaffles at 7:11 PM on May 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Interesting that people are saying that ballet makes it worse - I think my dance/physical theater/circus training helped a lot in this regard, mostly due to the exercises that involved body awareness. I learnt all these stretches and warmups and stuff that helped me be in my body more, and that helped me figure out how to make my feet be a little less, uh, ducky.

I did have orthopaedic foot supports as a teenager for a couple of years due to flat feet but I'm not sure how effective they were in the long run.

What didn't help? Being forced to do a "catwalk" in the middle of class by a cruelly mocking teacher urging the other 12 year olds to poke fun at my walk.
posted by divabat at 12:43 AM on May 15, 2014

Two things: being vigilant about getting shoes fixed when the heel starts to wear down, and twice-weekly clinical Pilates (which has tremendously helped with a whole bunch of lower-body ailments)
posted by third word on a random page at 6:17 AM on May 15, 2014

Yeah, this doesn't have to be that complicated. Duck walk was my normal until I started doing yoga in my late 40s. I just wanted to do yoga, and I just used a book. I have still never been to a single yoga class. I wasn't trying to fix my duck walk, either, but one day I noticed that it was gone. I don't know what poses made the difference, I was just practicing a variety that included my whole body, you know?

Just remember, IANAD and i am nobody's yoga instructor, either!
posted by probably not that Karen Blair at 7:53 AM on May 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Egoscue Method physical therapy helped correct my mildly everted feet. (My previous comments about it.) If there's a clinic in your area, it might be worth an evaluation visit. They've produced some pretty dramatic results for some of their clients — before-and-after photos from one client's first session. For me, they helped correct the misaligned feet issue, plus cured me of the back pain I'd been dealing with for 15+ years (which would periodically get to the back brace+cane+opiate painkillers level).
posted by Lexica at 9:18 PM on May 16, 2014

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