Exercises To Fix Pigeon Toe

What is Pigeon Toe?

pigeon toe

Pigeon Toe is a postural issue where the feet point inwards.

This can be observed whilst walking or in the standing position.

Ideally – the feet should be pointing forwards/slightly outwards.

(It is also referred to as In-Toeing.)

Table Of Contents

Test For Pigeon Toe

Not sure if you have Pigeon Toe? Try out this quick test!

a) Test for Pigeon Toe

test for pigeon toe

Instructions:

  • Stand up.
  • March on the spot for 5 seconds.
  • Stop.
  • Look down at your feet.

Which direction are your feet pointing towards?

Results: If your feet are pointing inwards, then you have Pigeon Toed feet.

Is it bad?

intoeing

With the inward turning of the feet, there is a loss of the ideal alignment of the lower limb.

As a result – the joints and muscles in the leg may not function optimally. (especially during gait/walking!)

(Note: The presence of Pigeon Toe does not necessarily mean that there will be direct issues associated with it. The body can adapt!)

(Note 2: Those of you who are concerned with Pigeon Toed feet in children/toddlers, this tends to generally improve with time without surgery.)

causes

It is important to know which exact area of the body is causing the in-toeing presentation of your feet.

(This will determine the specific exercises that you will need to focus on in the exercise section down below.)

Here are the 4 main causes:

  1. Internal Rotation Of The Hip
  2. Internal Rotation Of The Tibia
  3. High Arches In Feet
  4. Structural Issue

1. Internal Rotation of the Hip

This refers to the inward twisting of the thigh bone (Femur) within the hip socket.

internal rotation of the hip pigeon toe

This movement may occur as a compensation for general weakness in the lower limb.

If your hips are internally rotated: You will need to perform the specific exercises as mentioned in the Exercise Section of this blog post.

a) How to tell if you have this issue:

pigeon toe test

Instructions:

  • Stand up.
  • March on the spot for 5 seconds.
  • Stop marching.
  • Look down at your knee.

Results: If your knee is facing inwards, then your hip is internally rotated.

b) Muscles that need to be addressed

Tight Muscles:

(The following muscles INTERALLY ROTATE the hip.)

  • Adductors
  • Anterior Gluteus Medius
  • Anterior Gluteus Minimus
  • Tensor Fasciae Latae

Weak Muscles:

(The following muscles EXTERNALLY ROTATE the hip.)

  • Gluteus Maximus
  • Posterior Gluteus Medius
  • Piriformis
  • Deep posterior hip muscles

(Note: Internal Rotation of the Hip can also lead to another postural issue called Knock Knee. This is where the knees are pointing inwards.)

2. Internal Rotation of the Tibia (Internal Tibial torsion)

This refers to the inward rotation of the shin bone (Tibia) relative to the upper leg bone (Femur).

If your Tibia is internally rotated: You will need to perform the specific exercises as mentioned in the Exercise Section of this blog post.

a) How to tell if you have this issue:

tibial internal rotation pigeon toed

Instructions:

  • Stand up right.
  • Identify the middle of your knee.
  • Identify the midline of the Tibia.
  • Are they aligned?

Results: If the line of the tibia is positioned towards in the inside of the knee, then your Tibia is internally rotated.

b) Muscles that need to be addressed

Tight Muscles:

(The following muscles INTERNALLY rotate the Tibia.)

  • Popliteus
  • Medial Hamstring

Weak Muscles :

(The following muscles EXTERNALLY rotate the Tibia.)

  • Lateral Hamstring
  • Vastus Lateralis
  • Lateral Gastrocnemius

3. High Arched Foot

A high arch in the foot is characterized by having a more pronounced curve in the medial arch of the foot.

In some people – a significant high arch can lead to the middle of the foot curving inwards.

This can give the appearance of the in-toed foot position.

If you have High Arches: You will need to perform the specific exercises as mentioned in the Exercise Section of this blog post.

a) How to tell if you have this issue:

high arches in feet pigeon toe

Instructions:

  • Stand up.
  • Take a photo of the medial (inner) side of your foot.
  • Observe the shape of the arch.

Results: If you can observe a prominent arch in your foot, then you have High Arches.

b) Muscles that need to be addressed

Tight Muscles:

(The following muscles lift the arch in the foot.)

  • Tibialis Posterior
  • Flexor Hallucis Longus
  • Flexor Digitorum Longus
  • Plantar muscles
  • Tibialis Anterior

4. Structural issues

(The following structural causes of Pigeon Toe will NOT be addressed in this blog post.)

a) Metatarsus Adductus

This abnormal position of the feet in babies is due to the feet being squashed in the womb.

It will usually self resolve within 4-6 months.

In severe cases – it can be treated with casting or special shoes.

b) Femoral Anteversion

This involves the angle between the femoral head and femur body being more narrow than normal.

As a result – the leg (including the feet!) turns inwards to better position the femoral head in the hip socket.

As this is a structural issue, there will be a limit as to how much the position of the foot can be changed without negatively impacting the hip joint.


Exercises to Fix Pigeon Toe

1. start Here: Determine the SPECIFIC AREA that your Pigeon Toe Is originating from.

(To determine this – read the CAUSES OF PIGEON TOE in the section above.)

2. Perform Exercises For Specific Area

Once you know where and what you need to address, click the appropriate cause down below to take you to the specific exercises:

3. Maintain ideal Foot Position

After you have addressed the specific area, challenge yourself by attempting the exercises mentioned in this section.

Hip Internal Rotation

Follow these 5 steps to address Pigeon Toe that is caused by hip internal rotation:

STEP 1: Releases
STEP 2: Joint Mobilization

STEP 3: Stretches
STEP 4: Strengthening Exercises
STEP 5: Avoid These Positions

1. Release Internal Rotators

a) Release The Groin

(Note: When applying the following releases to the groin region, do not apply too much pressure as there are sensitive structures (such as nerves and arteries) that run through this area.)

adductor release

Instructions:

  • Lie down on the stomach.
  • Place a foam roller underneath the groin region.
  • Completely relax this leg.
  • Apply an appropriate amount of your body weight on top of the foam roller.
  • Roll up/down.
  • Make sure to cover the entire muscle that is being targeted.
  • Continue for 1 minute.

b) Self Release To Groin

self release to groin

Instructions:

  • Sit on the edge of a chair.
  • Drop your knee towards the side.
  • Use your finger tips, knuckles or elbow to apply pressure to the groin.
  • Continue for 1 minute.

c) Release To Anterior Gluteus Medius

anterior gluteus medius release

Instructions:

  • Lie facing downwards on the floor.
  • Place a foam roller or massage ball directly underneath the front of the side hip region.
  • Apply an appropriate amount of your body weight on top of the massage ball.
  • Keep your leg completely relaxed.
  • Roll your body forwards and backwards over the foam roller.
  • Make sure to cover the entire area of muscle.
  • Continue for 1 minute.

2. Joint Mobilization

A stiff hip joint that is locked into the internally rotated position will need be loosened up via the following Hip Traction techniques.

a) Traction in Neutral

hip traction

Instructions:

  • Anchor a thick resistance band to a stationary object at ground height.
  • Wrap the other end of the band around the ankle. (See above)
  • Move your body away from the anchor point until there is a firm amount of tension on the band.
  • Lie down.
  • Relax your entire body.
  • Allow the resistance band to pull on your hip joint.
  • Aim to feel a pulling sensation around your hip.
  • Hold this position for 1-2 minutes.
  • Progression: Move further away from the anchor point.

b) Traction in Hip 90 Degrees flexion

hip traction in 90 degrees flexion

Instructions:

  • Anchor a thick resistance band to a stationary object.
  • Loop the other end of the resistance band as close to the hip crease as possible.
  • Flex and hold your hip to ~90 degrees.
    • Hold onto the back of your knee with your hands.
  • Move your body further away from the anchor point to create a firm amount of tension on the band.
  • Keep the hip completely relaxed.
  • Hold this position for 1-2 minutes.
  • Progression: If able – start to pull your hip into more flexion.

3. Stretch Internal Rotators

Here are some effective ways to stretch the tight internal rotators of the hip.

a) Lunge

Hip stretch for internal rotators

Instructions:

  • Assume the lunge position.
  • Point the foot at the back towards the outside.
  • Lunge forwards as far as you can.
  • Do not rotate your pelvis. Keep your pelvis facing the front.
  • Aim to feel a stretch in the groin region.
  • Push your hips forwards to increase the stretch.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

b) Butterfly Stretch

adductor stretch

Instructions:

  • Sit on the floor with your back against the wall.
  • Brings your feet closer towards you.
  • Place the bottom of your feet together.
  • Sit as straight as possible.
  • Push your knees down.
  • Aim to feel stretch in the groin region.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

c) Frog Stretch

groin stretch on floor

Instructions:

  • Lie down on your stomach.
  • Spread your knee to the side.
  • Bring your foot closer to the rest of your body.
  • Keep your hips and legs completely relaxed.
  • Sink into this position.
  • Aim to feel a stretch in the groin region.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

d) Cossack Squat

cossack squat stretch

Instructions:

  • Start in a standing position.
  • Have your feet wide apart.
  • Drop down to one side. (See above)
  • Keep your foot pointing upwards.
  • Push your hips forwards.
  • Aim to feel a stretch in the groin.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

e) Anterior Gluteus Medius Stretch

anterior gluteus medius stretch

Instructions:

  • Assume a lunge position with your hands on your hips.
    • (The leg at the back will be the side that is stretched.)
  • Have the foot at the back pointing slightly outwards.
  • Keep your pelvis facing forwards at all times.
  • Tilt your pelvis backwards and push your hips forwards.
  • Lunge forwards.
  • Push your hips out towards the side of the back leg.
  • Aim to feel a stretch in the front of the side hip region.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

4. Strengthen External Rotators of Hip

The goal with these exercises is to focus on the most challenging exercise that you can perform with good control and technique.

(You DO NOT need to perform all of them.)

a) Hip Rotation (Lying Down)

supine hip external rotation exercise

Instructions:

  • Lie down on your back.
  • Keep your leg straight throughout this exercise.
  • Pivot the leg outwards. (External Rotation)
  • Aim to feel a contraction in the muscles of the outer hip.
  • Hold for 5 seconds at the end range.
  • Repeat 20 times.
  • Repeat on the other side.

b) Clam Shell

clam shell exercise

Instructions:

  • Lie on your side with your hip and knees slightly bent.
  • Whilst keeping your ankles together, lift up your knee (on the upper side) as high as possible.
  • Make sure that you do not move your pelvis as you are lifting your knee.
  • Aim to feel the muscles on the side of your hip engage.
  • Hold for 3-5 seconds at end range.
  • Repeat 20 times.
  • Repeat on the other side.

c) Sitting with Resistance Band

sitting isometric hip abduction with resistance band

Instructions:

  • Sit upright on a chair with your knees bent to 90 degrees.
  • Loop a resistance band around both of your knees. (see above)
  • Keep your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Push your knees outwards.
  • Aim to feel a muscular contraction on the side of your hip.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat 3 times.

d) Bridge

bridge with resistance band for gluteus medius

Instructions:

  • Lie down on the floor with knees bent.
  • Wrap a resistance band between your knees.
  • Keep your feet and knees shoulder-width apart.
  • Push your knees outwards. Maintain this position throughout the exercise.
  • Aim to feel a muscular contraction on the side of your hip.
  • Push your hips upwards.
  • Hold for 5 seconds at the end range.
  • Repeat 20 times.

e) Forward Lunge

lunge with resistance band

Instructions:

  • Wrap a resistance band around your knee.
  • Tie the other end of the band to a stationary object so that the band is crossing in front of you.
  • Make sure the band is pulling towards in the inside of the knee.
  • Move your body away from the anchor point to create a firm amount of tension on the resistance band.
  • Assume the lunge position.
  • Perform reverse lunges without letting the knee collapse inwards.
  • Keep the knee pointing forwards.
  • Repeat 20 times.
  • Repeat on the other side.

f) Crab Walk

gluteus medius exercise

Instructions:

  • Wrap a resistance band around your legs as shown above.
  • Proceed to take small side steps with each leg over a short distance.
  • Keep your pelvis level through the exercise.
  • Aim to feel a muscular contraction on the side of both hips.
  • Continue for 1 minute.

g) Band Squat

hip exercises for pigeon toe

Instructions:

  • Stand up.
  • Wrap a resistance band around your knees.
  • Push your knees out throughout this exercise.
  • Perform a squat.
  • Repeat 20 times.

5. Avoid these positions

The following positions are to be avoided as they encourage the habitual internal rotation of the hips.

a) W Sitting

W sitting pigeon toe

This is a sitting position on the floor where the feet flare out to the side.

(It tends to be more commonly seen in children.)

b) Sitting with Knees Together/Feet Apart

things to avoid with pigeon toe

Sitting with the knees together and feet apart places the hip into an internally rotated position.

Tibial Internal Rotation

This is usually a structural issue that can not be changed. However – I would strongly recommend performing the following exercises in this section to see what movement you might be able to reclaim.

Follow these 3 steps to address Pigeon Toe that is caused by the Tibial Internal Rotation:

STEP 1: Releases
STEP 2: Joint Mobilization

STEP 3: Strengthening Exercises

1. Releases

a) Inner Hamstrings and Popliteus

release to Inner Hamstrings and Popliteus

Instructions

  • Sit on the floor.
  • Place a massage ball underneath the back and back/inner side of your knee.
  • Place your hands on top of your knee.
  • Keep your leg completely relaxed.
  • Proceed to apply a downward pressure on your knee towards the ball.
  • Continue for 1 minute.

(Note: Do not apply too much pressure to the back of your knee as there as sensitive structures in this area.)

2. Joint Mobilization

a) Tibial External Rotation

joint mobilization tibial external rotation

Instructions:

  • Sit on the edge of a chair.
  • Start with the knee in 90 degrees of flexion.
  • Whilst keeping your knee pointing forwards, position your foot to point towards the outside.
  • Using both of your hands, firmly grasp the area underneath the knee.
  • Keep your knee relaxed.
  • Proceed to twist your hands towards the outside of the leg.
    • (Tibial External Rotation)
  • Perform 30 repetitions.
  • Progression: Gradually perform this technique with your leg in a more straightened position.

3. Strengthening

a) Tibial External Rotation

tibial external rotation strengthening exercises

Instructions:

  • Sit down on the edge of a chair.
  • Hold your knee with your hands to keep it pointing forwards throughout this exercise.
  • Pivot your tibia towards the outside.
  • Perform 30 repetitions.
  • Progression: Perform this technique with your leg in a slightly more straightened position.

High Arches in Feet

If your intoeing is due to the high arches in the feet, you will need to focus on the following exercises.

STEP 1: Releases
STEP 2: Stretches
STEP 3: Joint Mobilization

1. Releases

a) Muscles in the Arch

foot release

Instructions:

  • Place your foot on top of a massage ball.
  • Apply a firm amount of pressure on top of the ball.
  • Roll your foot forwards/backwards.
  • Aim to cover the entire arch of the foot.
  • Continue for 2 minutes.

b) Tibialis Posterior

tibialis posterior release

Instructions:

  • Sit down on a chair.
  • Place your ankle on top of the other knee.
  • Using your thumbs, press into the area as shown in the above image.
  • Continue for 1 minute.

2. Stretches

a) Plantarfascia

pigeon toe stretches

Instructions:

  • Kneel down on the floor.
    • (You can place a pillow underneath your knees for comfort.)
  • Make sure that the toes are bent backwards.
  • Shift your body weight on top of your toes and forefoot.
  • Aim to feel a stretch underneath the foot.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

(Note: Please be careful with the kneeling position if you have knee issues.)

3. Joint Mobilization

The following exercises will help loosen up the tight joints that may be locking the foot into the high-arched position.

a) Forefoot

high arches pigeon toe exercise

Instructions:

  • Sit down on a chair.
  • Place your ankle on top of the other knee.
  • Hold the midfoot with one hand.
  • Using your other hand, place your thumb under the base of the big toe and the other fingers on top of the base of the pinky toe. (See image)
  • Whilst anchoring the midfoot still, push into the base of the big toe to rotate the forefoot away from you.
  • Perform 30 repetitions.

b) Midfoot

supinated foot intoeing

Instructions:

  • Sit down on a chair.
  • Place the ankle on top of the other knee.
  • Locate the Navicular bone:
    • Feel for a bony prominence at the top of the arch.
  • Place both thumbs above this bone.
  • Apply a downward pressure in the direction towards the bottom of the foot.
  • Perform 30 repetitions.

c) Hindfoot

foot exercises for pigeon toe

Instructions:

  • Sit down on a chair.
  • Place your ankle on top of the other knee.
  • Wrap your hand around the heel.
  • Firmly grip the ankle with the other hand.
  • Whilst keeping the ankle still, push the heel towards the ground.
  • Aim to feel a pulling sensation in the inner side of the ankle.
  • Perform 30 repetitions.

d) Drop the Arch

foot exercises to fix intoeing

Instructions:

  • Stand on one foot.
  • Hold onto a stationary object for balance.
  • Activate the muscles of the arch.
  • Shift your weight on the inner side of your foot.
  • Allow your arch to drop as much as possible.
  • Do not let the knee collapse inwards.
  • Perform 30 repetitions.

(Note: If you are not able to stop the knee from moving towards the midline as you collapse the foot, you will need to focus on the other foot exercises until it becomes easier.)

Check out this blog post for more exercises for High Arches:

See Post: Exercises for High Arched Feet


Maintain Foot Alignment

AIM: Keep your Feet, Knees and Hips in alignment as you perform the following exercises.

a) Wall Push

gluteus medius exercises using wall

Instructions:

  • Lift your knee up to hip height and place the side of that leg against a wall. (See position above)
  • Bend your planted leg slightly.
  • Push the lifted leg into the wall.
  • Aim to feel a muscular contraction on the side of both hips.
  • Hold this position for 10 seconds.
  • Repeat 5 times.

b) Single Leg Balance

single leg balance

Instructions:

  • Stand on one leg.
  • Make sure to keep your pelvis level throughout this exercise.
  • Make sure to keep your foot and knees facing forwards.
  • Keep your torso upright.
  • Maintain your balance! Try your best not to wobble.
  • To challenge your balance:
    • Alternate lifting your arms or,
    • Look behind your left and right shoulder.
  • Continue for 1 minute.

c) Hinge

pigeon toe exercises

Instructions:

  • Stand on one leg.
  • Keep your pelvis leveled throughout this exercise.
  • Make sure to keep your foot and knees facing forwards throughout this exercise.
  • Hinge forwards.
  • Aim to feel a muscular contraction on the side of the hip of the stance leg.
  • Repeat 10 times.

d) Step Up

supported step up

Instructions:

  • Place your foot onto a step.
  • Make sure that the foot and knee are pointing forwards.
  • You can hold onto something for balance. (If Required)
  • Slowly load the front leg with your body weight whilst maintaining the alignment between the foot and knee.
  • Keep the foot and knee pointing forwards.
  • Step up.
  • Repeat 10 times.

e) Step Down

step down

Instructions:

  • Stand on top of a step.
  • You can hold onto something for balance. (If Required)
  • Slowly step down with one leg as you maintaining the alignment of the knee and foot.
  • Keep the foot and knee pointing forwards.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Conclusion

Pigeon Toe is a postural issue where the feet point inwards.

The presence of Pigeon Toe does not automatically mean that there will be issues directly associated with it.

However – the in-toed position of the feet alters the ideal alignment of the lower limb which may place more stress on certain structures of the leg.

There are multiple areas of the body (such as the Hip, Knee and Foot) which can potentially lead to this postural issue.

The exact area that is leading to the Pigeon-Toed presentation will need to be address with the specific exercises as suggested on this blog post.


What to do next

1. Any questions?… (Leave me a comment down below.)

2. Come join me:

Facebook | Instagram

3. Start doing the exercises!


Disclaimer: The content presented on this blog post is not medical advice and should not be treated as such. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Use of the content provided on this blog post is at your sole risk. Seek guidance from a healthcare professional before starting any exercise. For more informationMedical Disclaimer.

2 thoughts on “Exercises To Fix Pigeon Toe”

  1. I had a total knee replacement three weeks ago and now the foot on that leg is severely toed in. This is a first, my foot was normal going into the surgery. The doctor bears no responsibility nor does he have any suggestion as to what I can do to correct it.

    Thank you for the detailed presentation, it looks very helpful.

    Reply
    • Hello Dee,

      Assuming that the surgery was a complete success, there are a few other things that may lead to the in-toed position of your feet.

      1. If your foot AND knee are turning inwards, this could be related to internal rotation of the hip. This is usually related to weakness of the glutes. Performing the glute strengthening exercises mentioned on this blog post should help address this.

      It may also be related to over reliance on your groin muscles. You may benefit from stretching the internal rotator muscles (groin) to help your hip assume a more neutral position.

      2. If your knee is pointing forwards but your foot is pointing inwards, this could be due to the ankle/foot pivoting inwards. Are you placing your weight evenly throughout the foot whilst you are standing/walking? Loading one side of the foot may lead to the foot curving inwards. Focus on equally distributing your weight on your feet between the heel, under the base of the big toe and under the base of the pinky toe.

      Mark

      Reply

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