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Bow legs and knock knees in children

Bow legs and knock knees are a normal part of a child’s growth. Both are very common in children and usually disappear without treatment.

Your child may have bow legs if their knees stay apart when they stand with their feet and ankles together.

Knock knees mean that when a child stands with their knees together, their feet and ankles stay apart. A small gap between the ankles is normal. But in children with knock knees, this gap can be up to 3 inches or more.

Two outlines of a child's legs. The one on the left shows knees staying apart as in bow legs. The one on the right shows knees together as in knock knees.

How long bow legs and knock knees last

It is normal for babies to be born with bow legs. You may only notice it when your baby starts to stand and walk.

Most of the time, there is no need to worry about bow legs and knock knees.

Usually, bow legs will disappear without treatment by the time your child is age 2 or 3.

Knock knees are common in healthy children between ages 3 and 5. Their legs will straighten out as they grow. Some adults have mild knock knees.

Non-urgent advice: Go to a GP if your child:

  • has difficulty walking
  • has pain or a limp
  • still has bow legs after age 3
  • has knock knees that worsen after age 8
  • is affected in only 1 leg
  • is small (height) for their age


  • do not try to straighten bow legs and knock knees by using special shoes, leg braces, exercises or night splints

  • do not put your child's shoes on the opposite feet

Get advice from your GP if you are concerned about the shape of your child’s legs.

It can help to take a photograph of your child's every 6 months to show your GP. Take the picture with their knees facing forward.

Page last reviewed: 5 April 2024
Next review due: 5 April 2027

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 8.