Although splayed feet are a common foot complaint, they can cause you pain. But, it is a condition that can regularly be corrected without the need for surgery. However, it will ultimately depend on how severely you are affected.
It is often the case that changes in your routine, together with specific exercise requirements are all you need to correct splayed feet at home. With the right approach, you should be able to reduce any discomfort.
In this guide to splayed feet, we explore everything you need to know about the condition, what it is, the causes, and how to fix it.
Table of Contents:
- 1 What Are Splayed Feet?
- 1.1 How to Tell if You Have Splayed Feet
- 1.2 What Are the Causes of Splayed Toes?
- 1.3 How Do Splayed Feet Affect Your Running
- 1.4 How to Tell Whether You Have Duck Feet
- 1.5 How Does Duck Feet Affect Posture?
- 1.6 My Foot Turns Out When I Walk
- 1.7 How Splayed Feet Can Affect Ankles And Feet
- 1.8 Can Duck Feet Cause Knee Pain?
- 1.9 How Do Splayed Feet Affect Your Back?
- 1.10 Can Splayed Feet Be Corrected?
- 1.11 Splay Foot Exercises
- 1.12 Take Action Early to Prevent Duck Feet
- 1.13 Read Our Latest Posts:
What Are Splayed Feet?
Splayed feet, which you might also see referred to as “splay foot,” is a pathological deformity characterized by flat feet – or what is sometimes called “duck feet.” Not many people realize they have until it starts causing pain in other areas of the body.
They are not always particularly noticeable. Indeed, you might think your feet are entirely healthy. When this is the case, it is difficult to determine where the sudden bout of pain in other parts of your body is coming from.
People who have splayed feet typically have flat feet that are broad and often turn outwards – hence why they are sometimes known as duck feet. The overarching effect is that flat feet can pose a problem with your posture. And this affects other areas of your body.
If you have duck feet, the metatarsal bones in your feet tend to spread out. This can give them the appearance of looking a bit like a fan. The forefoot becomes wider as a result, and the feet often turn out so it can give the impression of waddling.
When splayed feet are diagnosed, the problem is not usually difficult to rectify. Once the condition is addressed, and patients are used to a change in habits, you will avoid a lot of the problems and pain in other areas of the body that are related to posture.
How to Tell if You Have Splayed Feet
There are signs that you can look out for when you want to tell whether you have splayed feet:
- You might not be able to find shoes that fit comfortably due to the widening of the feet
- You may notice corns and calluses on your feet
- Sores might develop in some areas of your feet
- A collapsed arch is also a symptom, and this is often responsible for a lot of the pain
- Pain in your knees and back can indicate a problem with duck feet.
What Are the Causes of Splayed Toes?
You might be wondering what exactly causes splayed feet or splayed toes. The truth is that the exact reason is not known. However, there are some indications about the cause that you should take into account.
Splayed feet is a condition that usually forms over many years. It is not something you wake up to one day and find out you have duck feet.
Instead, splayed feet are often the result of many months—or even years—of putting a strain on the foot or feet.
This can be caused by the following:
- Being overweight
- Wearing the wrong types of shoes
- Using high-heeled shoes
The reason that poorly-fitting shoes can present a problem is that the heel on the shoes can weaken the feet and lead to shorter calf muscles. When calf muscles become shorter, this can end up forcing the feet to turn out.
Also, you might end up putting too much strain on the foot due to a foot injury that you suffer. You could also put a strain on your foot as a result of another condition, like a bone disease.
Age is another risk factor to keep in mind. The fact is that splayed feet are often more likely to happen when you get older. This is because the ligaments in the foot can become weaker as you age, which is very common.
This can lead to the metatarsal bones spreading out. This can happen even when you walk correctly and use the right type of footwear.
It can also become a more significant problem once you start to suffer from pain in one of your feet. This is because once your foot starts hurting, it is easy to change the way you walk.
People who suffer from foot pain often start to walk on the outside of their feet. This is a technique that they develop to avoid the pain. Walking is often unavoidable, so people find coping mechanisms.
Unfortunately, this can make the problem worse. While it might help with short-term pain relief, it often leads to even more weakening in the muscles. This can then lead to the collapse of the arch.
Situations That Increase the Risk of Duck Feet
Duck feet can also be more common for people who partake in specific activities and situations.
- Jobs that involve lots of standing, like shop assistants and factory jobs. When you shift weight onto one leg to take the pressure off the muscles, this can have negative consequences.
- Driving for long periods of time. The positions of the pedals can make it more likely to turn out the foot for more comfort. This might lead to more risk of walking with your feet pointing outwards.
While splayed feet can be caused by your behavior over months and years, there are other potential causes. For example, sometimes people are born with abnormalities in their feet.
- One of these abnormalities is Pes Planus, known more commonly as “flatfoot.” when this happens, the person can be more likely to develop splayed feet as a result.
- Another condition that could lead to duck feet is called Femoral Retroversion. This is where the femur turns out.
- Some people have one leg longer than the other, and this can also lead to a greater likelihood of the foot turning out.
- Sometimes children face problems as they are growing. Osgood-Schlatter disease, for example, can increase the likelihood of developing duck feet. If the shin bones becoming bowed, this can also be a risk factor.
Despite these conditions, having duck feet is usually the result of behavior and lifestyle.
How Do Splayed Feet Affect Your Running
If you are a keen runner, splayed feet is something that you do not want to have. Duck feet can cause pain in your feet while you walk, but the pain is much worse when you run because of the impact of the hard ground.
Pain is often due to overpronation in your foot. This leads your arches to become lower which puts more stress on the shinbone. It can also have an impact on the alignment of your knees.
It can also cause pain to the hip. This is often as a result of friction caused by the iliotibial band.
It can also cause other injuries over time including:
- Shin splints (medial tibial stress syndrome)
- Plantar fasciitis
- Hip Bursitis
- Bunions, which can cause misshaping of the big toe
As well as causing pain when you run, splayed feet can also affect your speed. If you run with splayed feet, this will often lead to a slower running speed.
This is because it makes your body less efficient at pushing off the ground and propelling you forward. To run fast, you need to be able to push off properly, and you cannot do this if your feet are sticking out. Instead, you lose power when you push off.
Running with the toes pointed out is one of the most common problems for runners. This can even be a problem for serious runners. If it is affecting you, it’s a good idea to do something about it.
How to Tell Whether You Have Duck Feet
There are many ways that you can quickly tell whether you might have duck feet or not.
One way to identify the issue is to sit down on the floor without any shoes or socks on. Your legs should be outstretched out in front of you.
In this relaxed position, look at the position of your foot and toe. Does your foot fall out a long way? Look at your big toe. Does it have a prominent knuckle? If so, this could mean you have splayed feet.
You can also check when you are standing up. Simply stand up and look straight ahead, then march on the spot. Stop after a few seconds and look at your feet. What position are they resting in? If they are sticking out at angles, this could mean you have splayed feet.
You can often look at your feet to determine whether you have splayed feet. However, you might also be able to tell from other common symptoms.
Some of the symptoms that might indicate a problem include the following:
- Tighter shoes. If your shoes are not as comfortable as they once were, it might suggest that your feet have changed.
- Painful foot when walking or standing, but the pain goes when you rest. This is common for people suffering from splayed feet.
- You are not pushing off from your big toe when you walk. If you find that you are pushing off from the outside of your foot, it might be due to splayed feet.
- Pressure sores and calluses, which you might develop because you are distributing your weight differently on your feet.
You might also notice deformities in your foot. These might only happen after you have been experiencing foot pain for a long time, sometimes years.
They can include:
- Claw toe
- Hammer toe
These can occur where you shift your weight onto another part of your foot, which puts more strain on your bones and joints.
How Does Duck Feet Affect Posture?
Posture is one of the things that can be affected by duck feet. However, you might not notice anything visibly, apart from the actual feet sticking out.
Instead, you might start to feel pain in different areas of your body. Some of these areas include the back, the knees, and the ankles.
When your back or legs are in pain, this can often change your posture. The reason for this is that you might change your posture to help reduce the pain.
For example, you might find yourself standing in a slouched position or pointing your feet out further to take the pressure off them. This can then make the pain worse over time. It can make duck feet worse too.
My Foot Turns Out When I Walk
Do your feet point outwards when walking? This could mean you have duck feet. Splayed feet are often noticeable when you walk. However, you might not realize it until you begin to think about it.
When you look down, you will often be able to see that your feet are pointing outwards further than normal.
Try to keep an eye on your feet when you are walking. This can be easier said than done! But try to walk slowly and naturally in a safe area, and glance down to see how far your feet stick out.
If you notice your feet are turning out while you walk, this could mean you have splayed feet.
How Splayed Feet Can Affect Ankles And Feet
The whole body can be affected by splayed feet, but one area of the body that is often affected more is the ankles.
The foot’s arch is incredibly important. It helps with shock absorption when walking and running. With a flat foot, the plantar fascia lengthens. This is the connective tissue that helps to form the arch.
A flat arch leads to pain in the sole of the foot. This is one of the problems that splayed feet can cause.
Muscles in the foot support the arch. When the foot is turned outward, the arch becomes flattened, and this can stretch the muscles.
The muscles are then used less because more of the foot is resting on the ground. This is not good for muscles because they need to be used. If they don’t get used as much as they should, they can become weak.
This can prevent them from working properly. Muscles like the Tibialis Anterior and Tibialis Posterior, among others, can be affected. When this happens, it can often lead to shin pain when you walk or run.
This happens when the foot simply cannot absorb shock properly. Shock is transferred to the rest of the body instead, and this leads to pain elsewhere.
When you turn foot out, the outer ligaments on ankle become looser. The ligaments help to hold the bones together. When the lateral ligaments become loose, they affect the fibula (this is the long bone on the outside of the shin).
Can Duck Feet Cause Knee Pain?
Splayed feet can certainly be responsible for causing knee pain. The lateral collateral ligament, or the LCL, is connected to the other end of the fibula. This stabilizes your outer knee, and rotating your foot outward can hurt the stability of your knee.
The medial collateral ligaments, or MCL, is also affected. This provides stability on your inner knee. By rotating your foot outwards, this puts pressure on the MCL. When it is tense, the ligament can tear.
It can also affect the meniscus. This is a shock absorber in the knee, and it is attached to the MCL. It helps the bones in the knee to move properly. An MCL that is under tension can increase wear and tear on the meniscus.
Cruciate ligaments can also be affected, including both the anterior and posterior. These are in the knee, and they help to hold the upper and lower leg to provide us with stability.
Turning your foot outwards loosens these. This can lead to less stability, and it can cause damage to the cruciate ligaments as a result.
How Do Splayed Feet Affect Your Back?
The back is another part of the body that is affected by duck feet. The gluteal muscles have many roles, and they help with movement in the body as well as providing stability.
The gluteal muscles prevent internal rotation in the leg, and this helps to maintain your arch. So when you turn out your foot and lower your arch, this affects the glutes.
The piriformis can also be affected. This is a small muscle in the lower back. When you turn your foot outwards, this shortens the position of the muscle. Over time, the muscle shortens.
When you turn foot out, your body has to compensate to try and prevent the foot arch from collapsing. It uses the piriformis, but this puts too much pressure on it. This can lead to a stiff muscle, and it can sometimes press on the sciatic nerve.
Another problem that splayed feet can affect is the spine. When you rotate your leg outwards, this collapses the arch, and the body must compensate. This can cause the pelvis to tip to the side and move forward.
This rotates the pelvis, and the lower spine also has to rotate, as well as the Thoracic spine, right up the body.
Can Splayed Feet Be Corrected?
If you have got splayed feet, even if you have not suffered from the pain it can cause, you will probably want to do your best to fix it. Is splayfoot correction possible?
There are options to consider. One of the most important is exercises, which we will look at in a later section. But there are also other potential options.
How To Correct Duck Feet In Adults
When it comes to how to fix duck feet, there are other treatments to consider.
Orthopedic inserts or orthoses can help to reduce the pain. These help to retrain your muscles so you can slowly return to a normal gait. They are not too expensive, and they can help to stabilize your heel and keep your foot aligned.
You can use them to stop your foot from turning outward or to provide more support and comfort. They can be useful if your muscles are lacking in strength. They can also help to prevent plantar fasciitis.
Painkillers are also sometimes prescribed. These do not help to heal the splayed feet, but they can help to reduce the painful symptoms.
Perhaps the best treatment is to start paying more attention to how you walk. This can surprisingly have a significant impact on your duck feet. Pay attention to your feet not just when you walk but also when you are standing.
Do you turn them out too much? Make more of an effort to turn them in. Change your habits, and this can help your muscles so they remember how they should be aligning your body.
Massages can also be useful. When you are working on realigning your feet, this can cause discomfort in your muscles. Massage can relax muscles that have become tight and help to reduce soreness.
Sometimes, this is all that is needed. Getting some orthotics to provide more support and greater stability, and using massage to help with pain management. Over time, you might be able to correct your duck feet this way.
Splay Foot Exercises
Perhaps the most effective way to treat splayed feet is to carry out exercises. There are many exercises you can do. Orthoses are more temporary, and you do not usually want to become dependent on them.
With exercises, you can strengthen the foot. That is often what podiatrists will recommend. Exercises can help to prevent the metatarsals from getting wider apart. They can provide more support for your feet, greater stability, and they can also reduce pain.
Stretching is the simplest form of exercise. It does not take long to do, and it can make a big difference. Simple stretches can help to make the muscles less stiff and get rid of soreness. They can reduce stress in your muscles over time.
Strengthen Your Foot Muscles
One good exercise to strengthen your feet is to place some small items on the floor. Take off your shoes and socks. With your bare feet, try to pick up the items using your toes.
Marbles are a good option, and small toys are also suitable if you have any. Pick them up and put them in a pot.
This is a simple exercise you could do while listening to the radio. Take five minutes over it, and try to do it every day. This can help to increase strength in the muscles as well as providing you with more awareness of your feet.
Another fun way to strengthen your feet is to lie down on your back and imagine you are holding a pencil in your toes. Write out the numbers 1-10, or write the alphabet in the air. This helps to strengthen your whole foot.
Strengthen Your Arches
Exercises to strengthen your arches are essential seeing as it is when the arch collapses that the pain issues become worse in your ankles, feet, and knees.
One of these involves lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Lift your arches and pull your toes back along the floor. Then relax your feet and slide your feet towards your body.
Repeat this, moving your feet closer to your body. When you get as close as you can, do the same but in the opposite direction.
Move them back to the beginning, then start again and do this a few times.
Another one is to sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Lift your arch in one foot, but don’t lift your heel or curl your toes. You should be able to feel the strain. Do this on both feet a few times.
Strengthen Your Calf Muscles
Strengthening your calf muscles is also important to do. When your calf muscles are stronger, they help to support your feet. This leads to less cramping and pain.
Sit down and lift your heel as high as it will go. Hold for ten seconds and do the same with the other foot. Repeat a few times.
Practice Walking Barefoot
Another good idea is to walk around barefoot. This is best to do on natural surfaces, especially on grass and sand.
This can help you to return to a natural gait, and it can strengthen your feet. Just be careful where you go so you don’t hurt your feet by standing on something.
Take Action Early to Prevent Duck Feet
You might not have noticeable duck feet right now, and you may not feel any pain. But the potential of developing splayed feet is something that you should take seriously. Take action early to prevent it from getting worse.
If you have experienced any pain or discomfort in your body, look at your feet. Do some of the checks outlined earlier in the guide. Do your feet stick out too far to the side? If so, you may have splayed feet.
Look at your arches. Are they flatter than they should be? This could be the cause of any pain you are suffering.
The earlier you take action, the better. Talk to your podiatrist and find out what they recommend. They may suggest that you use orthoses, or they might suggest some exercises.
By acting now, you can help to prevent most of the more severe pain from occurring. This can help to prevent back pain, shin pain, knee pain, and more.
It is not always quick or easy to fix duck feet, but it can be done, and usually without any surgery.
So monitor your feet, be aware of their position, and know when they are turning out too far. If you think you have a problem, then you can start to take action.