16 Feb Normal Gait Patterns for Children
As parents it is natural to worry about the way your children walk, particularly if something looks a bit quirky or you feel it is causing your child to have lots of falls. As your child begins to start walking there are lots of normal variations that we would expect to see in your child’s walking patterns. However, as these look different to an older child, teenagers or adults’ normal walking pattern it can cause some concern. Hopefully this blog will help to reassure you that your child’s walking pattern is normal! If at the end of this blog post you are still not sure come and see one of the physiotherapists at Western Paediatric physiotherapy for an individualised assessment and treatment plan!
The first three months of gait/walking up to 2.5 years of age
For the first three months of walking, you can expect to see lots of large variations in walking patterns. They may walk for a short period of time on their toes then the next minute be walking with short steps and flat feet then long steps. They may also still go between walking and crawling, and may prefer to use crawling when they want to get somewhere fast! All these changes occur because your child is trying to figure out the best and most efficient way to move. It’s kind of like if you were to try to learn to do a tennis serve for the first time (or any other skill) your first attempts are going to be pretty clumsy and uncoordinated!
In general, the following is a list of variations that are expected to see up to three years of age
- Your child is slightly flexed (leaning forward) at the hips – This is due to tight hip muscles, these will gradually stretch as your child spends more time walking!
- Walking with a wide base of support (feet far away from each other) – This is to help improve balance.
- In-toeing – This can be due to rotation in the feet, knee or hip. This way require assessment from your physiotherapist. However, it usually resolves.
- Out-toeing – This is usually seen when your child first starts to walk. It is usually due to tight hip muscles, which will stretch as your child spends more time walking.
- Bow-Legged – This is completely normal up until approximately 2.5 years of age!
2.5 years to 7 years
It is generally considered that mature adult gait patterns are seen around 7 years of age. Up until this point bones and joints are still developing and some natural rotation of the joint will help to correct
- Knocked kneed – We expect this to resolve around 7 years.
- Flat feet – As long as there is no pain this does not tend to be an issue. As your child’s foot muscles develop they should also develop an arch. We normally expect to see an arch at about 4 years of age
- Narrower base of support when walking – As your child’s balance improves so to will their base of support when walking.
As mentioned, these are just some of the things we tend not to worry about in children. However, if you feel any of these issues are causing your child pain or impacting their function it is important to get them assessed. If your child is doing something that is not on the list it does not mean its cause for alarm however getting your child assessed by a paediatric physiotherapist may be prudent.