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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.

An illustration showing the differences between bow legs and knock knees

How long do bow legs and knock knees last

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

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

Knock knees are common in healthy children between the ages of 3 and 5. The legs will straighten out as they grow, although some adults have mild knock knees.

Avoid special shoes, braces or exercises

Do not try to straighten bow legs and knock knees with any of the following.

Do not:

    • do not use special shoes
    • do not use leg braces
    • do not use exercises
    • do not use night splints
    • do not put shoes on the opposite feet

When to get help from your GP

Bow legs and knock knees are very common and most of the time, there is no need to worry. They should improve as your child grows.

Illustration showing how bow legs and knock knees improve over time

Non-urgent advice: Talk to a GP if:

  • your child has difficulty walking
  • your child has pain or a limp
  • bow legs persist after age 3
  • knock knees worsen after age 8
  • only one leg is affected
  • your child's height is unusually short for their age

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 every 6 months to show your GP. Photograph your child standing with their knees facing forward.

Page last reviewed: 19 October 2021
Next review due: 19 October 2024

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