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Why are so many gifted athletes pigeon-toed?

Discussion in 'Biomechanics, Sports and Foot orthoses' started by Griff, Dec 20, 2010.

  1. Griff

    Griff Moderator

    Members do not see these Ads. Sign Up.
    Just came across this blog entry:
    I'll be honest - its not a correlation I have noticed personally. Of all the athletes I have seen (who I would class as 'gifted') I can't actually think of one that in-toed... Anyone else?
  2. Ella Hurrell

    Ella Hurrell Active Member

    No, don't think I've ever noticed a particularly high proportion of in-toeing in the athletes I have seen over the years. I have noticed a large number of keen football and rugby players that have tibial varum but that's probably another story....
  3. Not so much in rugby, but certainly in footballers (soccer players).
  4. Griff

    Griff Moderator

    I agree with the observations of tibial varum in elite soccer players. What are we thinking...

    (a) play a lot of soccer from a young age = bone remodelling = most soccer players have similar shape legs?


    (b) those who are given that skeletal morphology (genetically) seem to excel at soccer = most soccer players have similar shape legs?

    Does the soccer cause the legs (shape) or the legs cause the soccer (ability)?
  5. Ella Hurrell

    Ella Hurrell Active Member

    Indeed - I have pondered over this a lot. I'm not aware of any research so far to support either theory. Perhaps this could be your next project Ian if the golf course is buried under the snow?;)
  6. Why not search for old pictures of elite football players from when they were in their adolescence and compare with modern pictures of them?

    Which raises the question, how much does tibial varum change with age regardless of whether or not you kick a pigs bladder around for a living?
  7. Griff

    Griff Moderator

    Not alway easy to get aforementioned pics, but here's a starter for ten - Scott Parker in a Maccy D's ad when 13 years old:

    And here he is aged 27:


    Slightly off the in-toeing topic now, this may be worthy of it's own thread Admin?
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 22, 2016
  8. I would think that to start with you need to show that there really is a higher tibial varum among elite footballers compared to an age and gender matched population. Or is it just because the nature of the game automatically draws the eyes focus to their legs and feet and that they wear shorts so you can observe their legs more easily?

    Maybe this could form the basis of your PhD Ian?
  9. Griff

    Griff Moderator

  10. MJJ

    MJJ Active Member

  11. Dr. Bates

    Dr. Bates Member

    I have not examined O. J. Simpson in person, but I read when he was a child his mother made him wear his shoes on the opposite foot, IE left shoe on right foot, because he in- toed. I suppose he had metatarsus adductus. I think that foot type would keep the subtalar joint supinated and the foot a rigid lever to propel the body forward. That would only be an advantage if the muscles were strong enough to oppose the natural compensation of subtalar joint pronation. Dwight L. Bates, DPM, DABPS

    STEVE LEVITZ Active Member

    Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics
    Issue: Volume 16(4), July/August 1996, pp 489-491
  13. Griff

    Griff Moderator

    Thanks Steve, full abstract here.

    So back to the original question... are people seeing this with their 'gifted' runner patients or athletes? I myself am not. And I watch more than my fair share of athletics both on TV and at the track - it's not a trend I see there either.

    STEVE LEVITZ Active Member

    Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics
    Issue: Volume 16(4), July/August 1996, pp 489-491
  15. RobinP

    RobinP Well-Known Member

    Not in my experience. I'm not seeing top level athletes(local club athletes) but i would argue that sprinters have a greater tendancy toward slightly externally rotated foot progression angle in my clinical experience(although I would say that the progression angle is less externally rotated when sprinting than when walking)
  16. Griff

    Griff Moderator

    I concur Robin, and most noticeable just out of the blocks. I've just found some footage on you tube of a race I had front row seats for at Crystal Palace Stadium two years ago - take a look from 1 min 04 seconds onwards just as Usain comes out of the corner. Not a pigeon toe in sight.

    PS If you love athletics and have never seen Usain run in the flesh then get on it. Breath-taking.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 22, 2016
  17. markjohconley

    markjohconley Well-Known Member

  18. Griff

    Griff Moderator

    Care to expand Mark?
  19. RobinP

    RobinP Well-Known Member

    Gifted Athletes?

    Attached Files:

  20. gaittec

    gaittec Active Member

    Ok guys, it's no mystery. Guys who toe-in move better laterally. To get to the root of this problem look at the demands of the sport - not just the physiology of the lower limbs.
    When is lateral movement important to an athlete? Think linebacker, tennis, running back, defensive back, basketball, any field sport position. If you want to try this out, stand up point your toes out; and, move side to side. Now point your toes in and do the same.
    Mystery solved.
  21. markjohconley

    markjohconley Well-Known Member

    Haven't watched cricket for decades but if you think of bowlers of the past SOOOO many of them are/were pigeon-toed. The easist to recall, for an Englishman would be Tony Greig.
  22. pgcarter

    pgcarter Well-Known Member

    Don't know from my own eyes but the word is Cathy Freeman is flat as a pancake
    regards Phill Carter
  23. Jenene Lovell

    Jenene Lovell Active Member

    yes, I have heard that Cathy Freeman is very flat footed, which is meant to result in poor biomechanics, however I dont think she is pigeon-toed... but I havent actually gone out and asked her...
  24. jpurdydpm

    jpurdydpm Active Member

    I can think of two. Michale Jordan and Andre Agassi. I would think as a start, one would want to compare the statistics of percentage of "world class" athletes with in-toeing vs. the percentage in the general population.

    Jon Purdy, DPM
  25. Griff

    Griff Moderator


    Did you read the original blog which was the reason for this thread? Rhetoric - as you clearly didn't. It suggested that in-toeing made athletes faster. End of. You have solved a mystery that did not need solving, as we were not referring to lateral movement. (It may help a running back, but this wouldn't really help a 100m sprinter would it?)

    I'll say it again - in the fastest athletes I've seen not one has in-toed. And you?
  26. gaittec

    gaittec Active Member

    IAN: Your point is well taken. But, I just can't stand here with my toes pointing toward each other and let it rest.

    YES, many "great athletes" have great lateral speed and are in-toed.

    "While we don't know that intoeing provides an athletic advantage, we do know that it isn't a disadvantage. Many successful sprinters and other athletes are pigeon-toed, and a study done at Seattle Children's Hospital in 1996 found that high school sprinters tend to intoe more while sprinting than high school students who aren't runners. Intoeing won't necessarily make a child a faster runner, but we know from these examples that it won't hurt her athletic ability, either," says Thomas Jinguji, a pediatrician and sports medicine physician at Seattle Children's Hospital."

    "Gabe Mirkin, M.D.
    Most football coaches can pick their halfbacks just by watching them walk. The fastest runners are often flat footed, pigeon toed, and bow legged. When you run, you land on the outside bottom part of your foot and roll toward the inside. Most flat feet appear flat because the ankles roll in excessively causing the arches to touch the ground. Excessive rolling in causes feet to hit the ground with greater force to drive you forward faster.

    Pigeon toes require very strong medial shin muscles to point your feet inward and shin muscles raise you up on your toes as you step off to the other foot. People with bowed legs have knees that whip inward as they step off from one foot to the other, which drives them forward with greater force and helps them to run faster. A football coach can often pick his halfbacks by looking for students with flat feet, pigeon toes, and bow legs."

    Many Dinosaurs were pigeon-toed
    Sauropodamorphs to 5 km/h (about the walking speed of people)
    Stegosaurs and ankylosaurs to 6-8 km/h
    Most sauropods walked about 12-17 km/h, with maximum of 20-30 km/h
    Large theropods (like T. rex) and ornithopods to 20 km/h
    Ceratopsians to 25 km/h
    Small theropods, ornithopods to 40km/h
    Ornithomimids to 60 km/h
    People are estimated to run up to 23 km/h if pigeon toed (fast sprinting speed)

    Ok, I cheated a little.

    You are correct. Have a great day.
  27. wdd

    wdd Well-Known Member

    From personal experience I would say that the percentage of pigeon toed gifted athletes is very small and that they succeed not because they are pigeon toed but in spite of being pigeon toed?

    Have a good year.

    Bill Donaldson
  28. PaddyC

    PaddyC Welcome New Poster

    Lleyton Hewitt - although struggling at the moment was once lightning fast

    Not professional athlete but does a lot of running in his "matrix" movies Keanu Reaves

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