The Pigeon Toe: Friend or Foe?

Oh, the mighty pigeon toe.  Such a strange little insurgent, and yet, it exists peacefully all around us.  Where does it come from and how does it form?  Does it afflict one leg or both?  Is it the tibia or the foot?  How does the ankle, knee, and hip come into play, and does it pull or push the midline from center?  When one starts to pay attention, does it make one desire to eliminate this adaptation or further sink into it?  If one has pain or a problem they are trying to mitigate, it makes sense to look at an area with an extra twist, particularly if it is located at our base of support.

When I asked Adarian about his thoughts on the issue, he pointed out that it is a trademark of many with developmental or motor control disruptions.  He referred to it as, “the base pattern that didn’t evolve, [likely from] extrinsic muscle issues.”  He then sent me this video of a runner with Cerebral Palsy.  The movement patterns of those with movement disorders reveal the most basic and primitive movement strategies:


Before you label it as strictly “faulty”, however, another has harnessed its “perpetual motion” or constant rotation into becoming one of the best basketball players in the world (go to slide 6):


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A post shared by Breanna Stewart (@breannastewart30)


Notice how she masterfully ‘spins’ (on both take-off and landing) to create and slice through space:

It should be noted that Stewart snapped her right Achilles in 2019.  She also had a season-ending left foot injury in 2021.


Like most adaptations, they occur (or don’t occur) for a reason.  They allow what might otherwise be denied access to.  Whether they are deemed ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is based on who is looking at it.  The body is not ignorant.  It adjusts with purpose.  That being said, what you continually do with the body, along with the effects of those repeated actions, will dictate whether or not the modification should be reversed.

Because Adarian Barr is the smartest person I know whom I can also say is a friend, I take what he puts out there as a truth.  He has pointed out for months now that good things happen when the heel moves toward the anus, and in his latest telegraphing, he has labeled the first metatarsal as the primary axis joint amongst which the foot should fold and rotate.



Specifically, he’s talking about fulcrums.  To maximize the structure and anatomy of the system, getting both linear and rotational contractions, the heel should twist in and the flexion point should be DEEPER than the base of the big toe.  The magic of finding foot pressure is in utilizing the MTP (or metatarsophalangeal) joints.

The outward swinging of the heel and the inward turn of the foot (aka being “pigeon toed”) is counter to his theory and analysis.  For me, that alone makes it worthy of a personal investigation into what reversing this pivot can do, particularly with my injury history.  My left foot twisted in pretty severely for almost two decades.  Long story short on its beginnings, I was trying to impress someone through mimicry, and it stuck.  That left leg is my up leg.  That left leg is also the leg that had a non-contact ACL tear, during this 20-year stand.  I still have lingering knee issues on that left side, AND I believe that it is the left half of my pelvic floor that is dysfunctional.

Could this all be coincidental?  Sure.  But in the little unravelling I have already done, many connections and improvements have been found.  I’ll be laying out the specifics in the next post (or two).


One thought on “The Pigeon Toe: Friend or Foe?

  1. Michael Grau
    Michael Grau on

    Stewart uses the outside of her right foot for cutting, jumping and deceleration. Whether going left or right in a spin, her right foot dominates and she adjusts her body weight in relation to that foot. If you look around 3:47 she runs down court. She internally rotates the foot to get going, in the same way she might do a jab step or spin to shoot. But when she is mid court and running we do not see this inward rotation. The outside of the foot is useful for stopping a cutting motion. Its likely helping her shot consistency because this stop Carries and transfers momentum up the body to same side shot. Would it work as well if she shot left handed? Her right foot during deceleration rarely uses the heel whereas her left will land heel first. Left prepares for right stop/jump. The outside of her foot is also the first part of the foot to sense the ground when sprinting. For both Stewart and the other runner we see the foot needs to be lifted off the ground rather than flicking over. I find this difficult to explain but it’s like the end of a feather on a wing of a bird. The final flick. For Gallegos it’s likely the outside of his left foot catches the ground and he can use this initial sensing of the ground and extend that sense. Like Stewart his body weight/lean in relation to this catch defines what comes next. For other ‘normal’ running we see a roll from the outside mtp to the inside mtp. This is partly why walking in soft sand is so difficult. The sense of the outside edge is muddied and the inner mtp wants to know the outer mtp position and sense of the ground. Walking on just the outside or inside edge of the mtp tells you what each edge does, what happens next, whether it wants your body to turn jnside or outside and how they work together. And how the rest of the body arranges itself dynamically. Lastly Stewart does not have wide hips and I suspect this strategy would provide pain/looser feedback if she had wide hips. In other words, the stopping sense may not be as sharp/defined due to noise at the knee.

    An in interesting example. High jumpers? See Angelina topic from Serbia or levchenko. Final foot plant for both.

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