I know very little about birds but I’m often asked “do I walk like a duck?” and “do I walk like a pigeon?” A duck walk, having duck feet, or walking like a duck, means walking with your toes pointed outward. Walking like a pigeon is the opposite, walking with your toes pointing inwards. Although these sound like funny questions, they actually provide me with a good starting point for any pain or mobility difficulties a patient may be experiencing.
During a patient’s initial pedorthic consultation, I conduct a gait assessment, which is an analysis of how they walk. Although I watch how the patient walks, I am really analyzing why they walk the way they do.
Walking like a duck or a pigeon can stem from alignment problems in the hip and lower leg. Depending on how the knees and feet are aligned and function mechanically, will determine how severely the toes turn outward or inward and the overall impact the condition has on a patient’s function. Leg and hip alignment problems can lead to lower back pain, knee pain, and foot pain as the body tries to compensate. Walking with toes pointing out or turned inwards can also cause arch and heel pain, bunions, hammertoes, arthritis and neuromas, which is a burning sensation between the toes and in the ball of the foot.
If you have duck feet or walk like a pigeon, ask your family physician for a referral to a Canadian Certified Pedorthist. Canadian Certified Pedorthists are a type of medical professional that have extensive training in the assessment of lower limb anatomy and muscle and joint function so they will determine why you walk the way you do. Once your Pedorthist has completed a thorough assessment of your physical condition, he/she will recommend a customized treatment program to help keep you healthy and pain free. Treatment may include custom foot orthotics, different or modified footwear and possibly recommendations for physiotherapy or chiropractic treatment.
By Mike Neugebauer, C. Ped (C), Port Coquitlam and Langley, BC.