My son is 13, 5'10", wears a size 14.5 shoes and has a very tall father and sisters. He hasn't hit his growth spurt yet and I am concerned about his gait and his desire to play sports, but his struggle with it.

He walks and stands with his feet turned out. He also mainly walks on the front or ball of his feet, kind of bouncy-like. His heels don't touch or if they do not much. He can shoot the ball and do those types of things, but running for any period of time ends up being painful. He wants to play but struggles to run and if so very slowly. He is very frustrated and we did have him see a pediatrist, but they gave us inserts and told us not to worry about it. His ankles and calves are very thick, the bones are large, although he is not an over weight kid. Average for his size, I would say. But I worry about his future with his legs. His dad is 7 foot and he has tall sisters. But his running almost looks painful to watch. He can shoot and do all of the other things, just struggles to get down the floor.

Are there any things we can do to help him correct this? Exercises? Any thoughts would help greatly. Thanks.

  • Where does the splay come from? Just the feet, or another part (or parts) of the hip/leg chain? I'd also wonder about calf flexibility. Nov 12, 2012 at 20:38
  • I don't think that this question is a good fit for our Q&A format and I cannot see it fit into out FAQ either, as we don't provide medical advice here.
    – Baarn
    Nov 12, 2012 at 20:47
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    This seems similar to this question: fitness.stackexchange.com/questions/3900/… That Q&A suggests that turning the feet out while running may be a sign of tightness in the glutes.
    – DavidR
    Nov 12, 2012 at 23:21
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    FWIW, a pediatrist may or may not spot an issue like hip flexibility contributing to a foot problem. My personal (limited) experience is that docs are much more specialized than you might think.
    – DavidR
    Nov 12, 2012 at 23:23

3 Answers 3


In order to get the correct exercises for your son, I would suggest an evaluation by a physical therapist to look at the lower extremity alignment including the pelvis, hips, knees and ankles.

Myofacial restrictions can be released (such as tight hip rotators or calf muscles) and weak muscles can be strengthened (such as core muscles or glutes) to improve alignment and improve shock absorbtion on impact. The therapist can give your son home exercises to address the areas of concern. They can also perform a running analysis and help correct any possible errors in form.

Once you have a clear understanding of what is involved that is causing your son to have pain with running, and have specific corrective measures to address the problem(s), then we can give you better information with q/a like this one on how to achieve painfree running.

Given that he is 13, you are right to get him help sooner than later. Painful running can lead to injury, interfere with his desire and ability to play sports, and even affect his outlook. When choosing a therapist, call around and try to find a sports physical therapist who has a specific interest in running. Hope that helps.


Melinda, it sounds a bit as though your concerns are based on conjecture. He may very well have some troubles, but he also may be perfectly fine and normal. I would suggest you help him focus on basic training and see how he progresses before raising concerns.

You've tagged running as an activity, and it's a good one to start with. I would suggest using a simple "get running" program like couch to 5k to help him safely take up the sport and to help teach him to incrementally work towards goals. If he can get to the point of comfortably running a few miles a couple times a week then he can set higher goals for himself to work towards.

Be sure to get him good shoes; and since you mentioned he has a tendancy to move on the ball of the foot you could consult athletic shoe specialists to see if it might make sense to have him try using "minimalist" shoes--the theory is that humans should land on the mid to front of the foot--as it positions the foot to use the entire leg as a shock absorber. Be cautioned that if you do go this route he'll need to be careful not to do too much too quickly.

  • Not convinced it's "perfectly normal" to run with the feet turned out; the knee is pretty much designed as a linear hinge (and it isn't even that good at that sometimes). I'd be more likely to think you'd end up stressing an edge of the joint without its natural alignment. I'd urge discussing it with someone knowledgeable in running mechanics before assuming no damage would occur. Nov 12, 2012 at 20:45
  • I do agree, but seeing how he's already been to a pediatrist I wouldn't be too concerned about it
    – STW
    Nov 12, 2012 at 21:33
  • @DaveNewton - It may be normal for his structure. While the knee is a linear hinge, it is linear in the line of the leg. For most people, that is straight ahead. However, there are people who are naturally pigeon toed, and people who have splayed feet (Of which I am one). My right foot naturally is cocked out at about 15-20 degrees. I've run x-country for years with no problems. +1 for this answer for correct shoes and a running gait evaluation.
    – JohnP
    Nov 13, 2012 at 14:51
  • @JohnP The answer doesn't say anything about gait analysis, which is precisely why I think it's a dangerous answer. Nov 13, 2012 at 14:54
  • @DaveNewton - I implied it by the reference to the athletic shoe specialist. While not perfect, most quality running stores (not the mall shops) have people experienced in gait analysis. But yes, someone knowledgeable should do that.
    – JohnP
    Nov 13, 2012 at 14:59

It sounds like your son has specific movement problems that might be caused by a number of things. Some of them might be caused by inflexibility (see this Q&A about another runner who's feet point outward when he runs).

You might want to look for a personal trainer or physical therapist who specializes in running, and works with normal, ordinary people ... it sounds like you need someone who know's what he / she is doing to actually watch your son run, give advice, and follow up with him. Its might be hard to get that off the internet. My limited experience is that doctors (like the podiatrist you went to) are great if your problem falls in their specific wheel house, but don't do much to address integrated movement / strength / flexibility /issues, at least not in healthy young people looking to play sports.

Is there a running club in your area, or some local runners online forum where you could post for a local trainer / physical therapist?

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    or find a physical therapist, instead of a running coach.
    – DavidR
    Nov 12, 2012 at 23:40

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