Bow legs is a condition where your legs curve outward at your knees and your feet and ankles touch. When you are bow-legged, there is a gap between your lower legs and knees when your feet are together.
If you have bow legs and participate in vigorous exercise such as running or aerobics or sports such as soccer, stress on your knee joint can increase your risk of knee osteoarthritis and patellofemoral pain syndrome. However, there are steps you can take to make exercise more comfortable and improve your condition.
Challenges when training with bow legs
Having bow legs can put increased stress and strain on various anatomical structures in your knees. While this occurs with common activities such as walking, the stresses are increased with intense exercise.
Bow legs create a gap on the outer part or side aspect of your knee joint. At the same time, the medial or inner part of your knees can be compressed.
These gaps in the sides of your knees can put undue strain on the side ligaments. These strong structures connect your thigh bone to your lower leg bone and prevent excessive movement of the outside of your knees.
Compression of the medial side of your knee joints can cause pain or increased wear and tear on your medial meniscus. This structure sits on top of your shin and provides cushioning between your femur and the shin in your knee joint. Excessive compression can lead to problems such as a meniscus tear or osteoarthritis of the medial joint.
Movement and strength
Genu varum can also affect the movement of your hips and ankles. You may be at a slightly increased risk of problems in these joints while exercising.
Some research suggests that bow-legged athletes may be at increased risk of developing Achilles tendonitis. This may be due to increased rotational forces that appear on your shin during weight-bearing activities such as running and squats. By correcting or compensating for these forces, you can potentially minimize your risk of Achilles tendonitis.
A bow-legged runner is more likely to supinate their feet and ankles. This condition causes your ankles to twist excessively outward as you walk and run. This puts more strain on the outer edge of the foot and the smaller toes. Shoe insoles or orthotics can be recommended for correction.
Some research also suggests that people with bowlegs may have more problems with balance, especially in the sideways direction. This may be due to changes in your center of mass due to changes in the position of your feet and ankles and hips that occur with bow legs.
Benefits of exercise for arched legs
Exercise is an important part of maintaining your general health and you shouldn’t let bow legs stop you from exercising. Many people have bow legs and can function and exercise without pain or problems.
Taking care of your knees and exercising properly can potentially avoid problems with your bowlegged knees. Stretching your lower extremities and strengthening your hips and legs will help keep your knees healthy.
Exercise can help you control your weight. Obesity is an additional risk factor for knee osteoarthritis. If you’re obese and have bowlegs, your risk is five times higher than that of obese people who do not have bowlegs.
People with bowlegs may need to focus some of their workouts on improving balance and proprioception, as the condition can affect them. This can improve your function in your daily activities and possibly help prevent falls.
There is some research to support claims that corrective exercises can be done to reduce the space between the knees in those with bowlegs.You can add these exercises to your routine as described below.
How to exercise with bow legs
If you have bow legs, you can still exercise. You may want to choose exercises that are less effective because they are less likely to lead to future knee problems due to a bow-leg alignment.
One of the most important things you can do is keep your legs and knees in line while you exercise. Physiotherapists call this neuromuscular training. There are exercises that can help correct bow legs and improve balance, activities that are safer, and ways to change exercises to make them safer.
Exercises That Can Help Correct Arch Bones
Exercises to stretch the hip and thigh muscles and to strengthen the hip muscles have shown that they correct the misalignment of the bow legs. This can potentially help reduce the risk of injury to people with bowlegs.
Exercises that can help improve Genu Varum include:
Exercises to improve balance
Since research suggests that bow-legged people may have mild balance problems, you may want to incorporate balance exercises into your exercise program as well. Some good ideas can be:
- One Legged Standing: Standing on one foot
- Tandem stand: standing with one foot in front of the other
- BOSU ball training: Use the BOSU balance trainer during exercises
- Use of a balance board or BAPS board
Before starting any exercise program, check with your doctor and physical therapist to make sure that the exercise is safe for you.
Other safe choices
Exercises that have little or no impact will keep your knee health better because your leg alignment puts you at risk of developing knee problems and pain. Limiting the force that is put on your knee joints can help prevent wear and tear problems in your knees.
If you already have lower leg pain, you may want to look into non-contact exercises. As an alternative form of exercise, you can try cycling or swimming. Balance and flexibility exercises like yoga, tai chi, and pilates can also be beneficial.
To go biking
Keeping your knees in line while exercising can help ensure that improved knee position becomes a permanent change in your joints and minimizes the risk of lower extremity injuries during exercise.
- As you run, make sure your knees are directly over your toes as you land on each foot.
- When doing the squat, don’t crouch so low that your hips go below your knees and keep your knees above your toes.
- Wear suitable footwear for the activity that provides proper support.
- Since you may have increased foot supination, consult a shoe expert or podiatrist to determine which type of shoe or insole offers the best foot mechanics. You may need a prescription brace.
How your health team can help
If you’ve had knee pain or a lower limb injury, it is a good idea to check with your doctor or PT before starting any exercise program.
One of the best ways to make sure you’re exercising properly when you bow your legs is to see a doctor. A physical therapist (PT) who specializes in orthopedic conditions is a good place to start.
Physiotherapists are trained to examine patients as a whole; they are looking at the entire kinetic chain when examining someone with bowlegs (or knocked knees). Your PT can assess your legs and put together an exercise program that is safe and effective for you. They can suggest modifications to prevent pain.
Orthotics and orthotics
In addition to a modified training program, your orthopedic doctor or physiotherapist can recommend special shoe insoles or an orthosis or knee support.
If you have bowlegs and do strenuous activities like running, you might be a good candidate for an orthosis, which is a shoe insert that has been specially made to correct your gait for your individual needs.
Corrective braces are more often used on bow-legged children who need intervention. This includes a modified knee-ankle-foot orthosis that is worn day and night.
Braces are generally not used to correct bow legs in adults. For adults, it is best to consult with your doctor or physical therapist as to whether braces would improve or worsen your problem.
A word from Verywell
When you have bow legs, you can exercise. Your focus should be on maintaining a healthy lifestyle and doing exercises that you enjoy. To keep your knees healthy, you should focus on stretching your lower extremities, strengthening your hips and legs, and improving your balance.
If your bow legs are affecting your foot position, you can use an orthosis. Finally, if you are constrained by exercising with knee pain, choosing non-contact exercises may be an alternative. It’s a good idea to speak to a doctor to start on the right exercise regimen for your bowlegs.
frequently asked Questions
What causes bow legs?
Bow legs (genu varum) are normal for children under 2 years old, but something that usually goes away by the age of 3 or 4. especially if you are overweight).
Can exercise make bow legs worse?
While the benefits of exercise invariably outweigh the risks, those with bowlegs run the risk of further damage to joints and ligaments from engaging in high-impact activities that place excessive stress on the knees (as well as the hips and ankles) .
Which exercises are unsafe with bow legs?
There are no hard and fast rules, but sports that involve a lot of running and / or jumping with sudden changes of direction should be approached with caution. These include soccer, tennis, soccer, volleyball, basketball, and long distance running.
What exercises are safe when you have bow legs?
Low-impact activities that put minimal stress on the knees, hips, and ankles are ideal for people with bowlegs. These include biking, swimming, rowing, yoga, Pilates, rollerblading, tai chi, and weight band training.
Can you train correct bow legs?
It can help. Studies have shown that thigh and hip muscle stretches can improve bowlegs when done consistently and gradually. These include hamstring, groin, and deep gluteus stretches that help release tension where ligaments connect to bones. Weight loss also helps.