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Duck feet

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  • Duck feet

    Had my first session with a Chi-running coach yesterday. The first thing the guy said was "wow, your feet really point outwards"! I was aware of this (all my shoes end up really worn down on one side!) but didn't think it was particularly bad, or a huge problem. Apparently it is though! It was really apparent when I run (thanks to the video analysis) so I need to get this sorted before I can progress any further I think.

    Have other people had this issue and corrected it? I've googled it a bit and there seems to be some controversy about whether it needs to be corrected, or is even an issue at all. It makes sense to me though - after all when you squat, your feet point out so your knees can track outwards. When you're running, your knees and legs are just moving in a straight line so obviously your feet need to be straight.

    Basically I've just been trying to make sure that whenever I stand, my feet are about shoulder width apart and pointing forward, and when I walk I try to keep them that way. The instructor told me it was important to point the whole leg forward not just the foot or knee (he literally had me "picking up" my whole leg and rotating it to show me the correct position initially). It hurt a bit and felt very weird initially (muscle imbalance?) but gradually it's been feeling a bit more normal.

    As an observation I was looking at everybody's feet as I made my way around town. Virtually everyone had the "duck foot" to some degree. So is this normal (now)? Or is it just because most people are unfit or have weak muscles or badly made/fitting shoes these days? Comments please!

  • #2
    I had duck feet and my knees hurt. Spent a few weeks learning to walk with my feet pointed perfectly forward, and now I can run, walk and jump better without knee strain. Don't be a clown, turn those feet around! Or at least try walking with your feet forward for a day or two and see if it makes any difference at all. Your knees are not my knees. But I do find it odd that nobody taught me how to walk.
    Crohn's, doing SCD


    • #3
      Darn,, I was expecting there to be duck feet recipes...

      I have the opposite problem, My toes point in. apparently caused by a shortened muscle in my thigh that pulls my foot in. was told that I might be able to correct it with reg stretches when I was a kid.. but uh... lets see... spend an hour a day doing boring stretches or go ride the horse/play in the river/hunt bears in the woods.... yeah.. wasent much of a contest that one... Ive never found it to cause issues (although I am prone to tripping a lot..) plus being able to point your toes straight in is great for creeping people out
      Every time I hear the dirty word 'exercise', I wash my mouth out with chocolate.


      • #4
        Don't be a clown, turn those feet around!
        I like that, good stuff
        Yes I've been walking around today and concentrating on pointing my feet forwards, and I seem to be doing OK. I don't think I can attribute any pain, etc to the duck feet but my coach said in his opinion it increase the risk of injury as well as reducing efficiency.

        But I do find it odd that nobody taught me how to walk.
        Interesting point. Perhaps it indicates that the instinctive way is not always the correct way.

        apparently caused by a shortened muscle in my thigh
        My coach said a muscle imbalance was the usual cause. I'd like to thing with all the lifting I do my muscles are strong so it would just be a case of them re-learning by "muscle memory" so won't take too long to correct. I'll look into stretches though, see if there's anything appropriate that might help.
        Last edited by zilog; 12-17-2012, 10:49 AM.


        • #5
          Oddly, once I corrected mine, they stayed that way. I have to try to walk "incorrectly" to make it happen. My natural walk is the walk I taught myself as a young adult. Yeah, instinct gets it wrong, especially in domesticated creatures like dogs and humans.
          Crohn's, doing SCD


          • #6
            You might want to have a look at these videos from MobilityWOD:

            Turnstone's world - not really a journal...


            • #7
              Originally posted by zilog View Post
              As an observation I was looking at everybody's feet as I made my way around town. Virtually everyone had the "duck foot" to some degree. So is this normal (now)? Or is it just because most people are unfit or have weak muscles or badly made/fitting shoes these days? Comments please!
              Interesting question.

              One likely answer is that raised heels tend to cause the toes to turn out.

              If I'm understanding him correctly, that's what one very famous U.S. podiatrist Dr. Rossi says:

              On medium to higher heels, due to the reduced base of the heel top-lift, the line of falling weight shifts, causing a wobbling of the less-secure ankle, which tilts medially. (Fig. 7). The shift in the body’s cen- ter of gravity alters the equilibrium of the body column and prevents a natural step sequence. One consequence is that heelstrike moves to the lateral-rear corner of the heel top-lift. (Fig. 8). This is not natural. The heel of the shoeless foot receives its initial heel strike not at the lateral-rear corner but in the center at the site of the plantar cal- caneal tuberosity. (Fig. 9) The natural plantar path of the step sequence—heel to lateral border to ball to hal- lux and push-off (Fig. 10)—is forced to shift, further af- fecting natural gait.

              It's not something that's only been noticed recently. That interesting writer George Catlin comments that it was pointed out to him that North American Indians tended not to do this whereas whites did. Heeled shoes? Probably, IMO.

              Their loitering and my murmurs, at length, brought our leaders to a halt, and we held a sort of council, in which I explained that the pain in my feet was so intolerable, that I felt as if I could go no further; when one of our half-breed leaders stepped up to me, and addressing me in French, told me that I must "turn my toes in" as the Indians do, and that I could then go on very well. We halted a half-hour, and took a little refreshment, whilst the little Frenchman was teaching his lesson to the rest of my fellow novices, when we took up our march again; and I soon found upon trial, that by turning my toes in, my feet went more easily through the grass; and by turning the weight of my body more equally on the toes (enabling each one to support its proportionable part of the load, instead of throwing it all on to the joints of the big toes, which is done when the toes are turned out); I soon got relief, and made my onward progress very well. I rigidly adhered to this mode, and found no difficulty on the third and fourth days, of taking the lead of the whole party, which I constantly led until our journey was completed.
              Catlin's Letters and Notes - Letter 27

              I'd have to say that I'm not wholly convinced by the solution offered by the man who spoke to Catlin (or your running instructor, for the matter of that), however. That solution seems to be: "Don't do it!".

              Is it really as simple as that?

              A good first step would be to buy a couple of pairs of shoes without heels (Terra Plana vivo barefoot shoes, Tai Chi shoes, replica moccasins -- or whatever). But the wrong movement patterns that heeled shoes caused in you are probably ingrained by now. What I don't think people realize is that poor movement patterns -- generally, I mean, not just in this respect -- can take a lot of trouble to "unstitch". It's pretty easy just to layer further problems on top.

              I think your running instructor does kind of see this -- he'd seem to be worried that you might try to "correct" by doing something unhelpful at the ankle or knee. OTOH, is he trying to get you to do something unhelpful at the hip joint? I really don't know. I think problems of this sort can be pretty deep, and far more complex than most people -- in fact, almost everyone -- realizes. I like the Alexander Technique approach to movement, where rather than trying to explicitly correct by doing, you try to un-do. You learn how to not trigger habitual tensions associated with particular movements -- you get out of the way and "let the right thing do itself". Some disciplines like Tai Chi, where there is an emphasis on not forcing things and "effortless effort" (wu wei) seem to be getting to somewhere like the same place by another route.

              These are deep waters.

              The unfortunate thing is that if people never wore "modern" shoes they probably wouldn't have the problem in the first place. But once you have it you probably want to be careful about addressing by too "direct" methods since layering other problems on top in mistakenly conceived corrective efforts is a real possibility.


              • #8
                Now you have me paranoid about the way I walk haha
                -Ryan Mercer my blog and Genco Peptides my small biz


                • #9
                  Going too deep now. Just point your feet forward for a few days. That alone will tell you things, and you can learn more about walking from there.
                  Crohn's, doing SCD


                  • #10
                    The Primal Blueprint.


                    • #11
                      This was happening to me, more so on one side, and I realized the problem was a lack of ankle mobility. A good amount of ankle dorsiflexion is required to walk with the feet pointed straight ahead, and if that motion is lacking the entire leg might rotate outward as a way to compensate for lack of mobility in the ankle. I was able to fix the problem mainly by focusing on pointing my feet straight when I was walking and running, but I also did some ankle mobility exercises which seemed to help. I wrote a little about it here:

                      Donít Walk Like a Duck Ė Why Feet Should Point Straight

                      I think that traditional running shoes that have an elevated heel could contribute to the problem since they effectively hold the ankle in a plantar flexed (downward pointed) position.


                      • #12
                        I actually had perfectly straight feet when walking, but after almost a year of squats with proper form now, I am starting to do the duck thing. ARGH.
                        My chocolatey Primal journey

                        Unusual food recipes (plus chocolate) blog


                        • #13
                          Your knees are not my knees. But I do find it odd that nobody taught me how to walk.


                          • #14
                            A lot of interesting points in this thread!

                            Going too deep now. Just point your feet forward for a few days.
                            I hope it is this simple! I'm definitely going to some more stretching/foam rolling though. Can't hurt. My legs always feel a bit tight/beaten up these days anyway!


                            • #15
                              I read somewhere that feet pointing out doesn't happen to cultures that do not wear shoes and that it happens by default, even just a little, to cultures that DO wear shoes. I probably read it somewhere on here, but I can't remember where.
                              Take Off Your Shoes and Walk (Overview)

                              There was some article that showed the default gait of Europeans was toes pointed out and the default gait of Africans was toes pointed straight, until the Africans were made to wear shoes by the Europeans, then they pointed out, too.

                              Anyway, I don't know if you can cause knee problems at this stage if you try to fix it, but take care if you start to feel pain in your knee.
                              Female, 5'3", 50, Max squat: 202.5lbs. Max deadlift: 225 x 3.