How to Run With Bow-Legged or Knock-Knees

Legs and feet of baby
Bowlegs are normal in early toddlerhood. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Bow-legged knees “bow” outward from your body and knock-knees bend inward. Most children have bowlegs into early toddlerhood and then have knock-knees from about 2 to 4 years of age. However, most people’s legs naturally align slightly knock-kneed and some people develop further knee alignment problems with age, according to the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide. Activities such as running can be difficult and sometimes painful if you have a knee malalignment, but there are ways to continue exercising safely.

Find Proper Support

If you know you have knock-knees or bowlegs, ask a physiatrist or physical therapist to help you find the right supports for knee stability during physical activity. She likely will recommend that you wear a sturdy pair of running shoes to help protect you from inadvertently rolling the inside or outside of your foot, according to the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide. She also may suggest a brace or stretchy knee support for extra stability and an orthotic designed to your foot to fit into your running shoe.

Be Gentle

Many adults have some bowing or knock-kneed tendency that isn’t serious enough to warrant limited participation in athletics, according to the Children’s Memorial Hospital. However, the severity of malalignment varies. If your malalignment is more serious, you may be better off with a low-impact sport such as swimming or biking in place of high-impact running. Placing too much weight on a malaligned knee could increase your risk of pain and permanent complications, so consult your doctor or therapist to devise an ideal workout plan.

Warning

Having bowlegs or knock-knees increases your risk of osteoarthritis and leg deformation, particularly if you consistently run in such a way that you subject your inner or outer knee joints to uneven stress, warns the Ladisten Clinic website. This could prevent you from walking properly in old age, and it may warrant knee replacement surgery. Avoiding engaging in high-intensity sports or carrying heavy loads will help you prevent overburdening your knee joints. If your doctor or therapist permits you to run, chances are he will suggest you replace sprinting with jogging.

Considerations About Children

Most children outgrow bowlegs and knock-knees without treatment, though some children may not. Children who have slight bowing or knock-knees shouldn’t be limited by it, according to the Children’s Memorial Hospital website. However, if your child has severe bowing or knock-knees into her older elementary years, she may end up with severe knee pain and have trouble performing daily activities such as walking and running. This could warrant treatment with braces, special orthopedic shoes, physical therapy or – in serious cases – surgery to change the angle of the knee.

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