The amazing power of compensation. Coming to a patient in your office… Maybe today

This gal has had a right sided knee replacement. She has an anatomical right short leg, a forefoot supinatus, an increased Q angle and a forefoot adductus. So, what’s the backstory?

When we have an anatomical short leg, we will often have a tendency to try to “lengthen“ that extremity and “shorten” the longer extremity. This is often accomplished through pelvic rotation although sometimes can be with knee flexion/extension or change in the Q angle. When the condition is long-standing, the body will often compensate in other ways, such as what we are seeing here.


The fore foot can supinate in an attempt to lenthen the extremity. Note how the right extremity forefoot is in varus with respect to the rearfoot, effectively lengthening the extremity. As you can see from the picture, this is becoming a “hard“ deformity resulting in a forefoot varus.


Over time, the forefoot has actually “adducted “ as you can see, again in an attempt to lengthen the extremity. Remember that supination is plantar flexion, abduction and inversion, all three which are visible here.

You will also see that the Q angle is less on the right side (se above), effectively lengthening that extremity, but not quite enough as we can see from the picture :-)

Dr Ivo Waerlop, one of The Gait Guys

#forefootadductus #shortleg #kneereplacement #tkr #forefootvarus #gait #thegaitguys

The Q angle and Kids: The Basics

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Genu valgum in kids: What you need to know

We have all seen this. The kid with the awful “knock knees”.  It is a Latin word “which means “bent” or “knock kneed”. It appears to have 1st been used in 1884.

This condition, where the Q angle angle exceeds 15 degrees, usually presents maximally at age 3 and should resolve by age 9. It is usually physiologic in development due to obliquity of the femur, when the medial condyle is lower than the lateral. Normal development and weight bearing lead to an overgrowth of the medial condyle of the femur. This, combined with varying development of the medial and lateral epiphysies of the tibial plateau leads to the valgus development. Gradually, with increased weight bearing, the lateral femoral condyle (and thus the tibial epiphysis) bear more weight and this appears to slow, and eventually reverse the valgum.

Normal knee angulation usually progresses from 10-15 degrees varus at birth to a maximal valgus angle of 10-15 degreesat 3-3.5 years (see picture).  The valgus usually decreases to an adult angle of 5-7 degrees.  Remember that in women, the Q angle should be less than 22 degrees with the knee in extension and in men, less than 18 degrees. It is measured by measuring the angle between the line drawn from the ASIS to the center of the patella and one from the center of the patella through the tibial tuberosty, while the leg is extended.

Further evaluation of a child is probably indicated if:

  • The angle is greater than 2 standard deviations for their age (see chart) 
  • If their height is > 25th percentile 
  • If it is increasing in severity 
  • If it is developing asymmetrically

Management is by serial measurement of the intermalleolar distance (the distance between ankles when the child’s knee are placed together) to document gradual spontaneous resolution (hopefully). If physiologic genu valgum persists beyond 7-8 years of age, an orthopaedic referral would be indicated but certainly intervention with attempts at corrective exercises and gait therapy should be employed. Persistence in the adult can cause a myriad of gait, foot, patello femoral and hip disorders, and that is the topic on another post.

Promotion of good foot biomechanics through the use of minimally supportive shoes, encouraging walking on sand (time to take that trip to the beach!), walking on uneven surfaces (like rocks, dirt and gravel), gentle massage (to promote muscle facilitation for those muscles which test weak (origin/insertion work) and circulation), gait therapeutic exercises and acupuncture when indicated, can all be helpful.


So, what kind of shoes do I put this guy in?

The answer is, well…it depends.

This gentleman has a large Q angle (need to know more about Q angles? click here). The second photo is taken from above looking down at his knee.

If he has medial (inside) knee pain (possibly from shear forces), you would want to unload the medial knee, so a more flexible shoe that would allow more pronation of the foot and INCREASE the amount of valgus would open the medial joint space and probably be more appropriate.

If he had lateral (outside) knee pain (possibly from compressive forces), then a shoe with more support (like a motion control shoe) would help to unload the lateral knee and create more space may be appropriate. And that just covers the local knee issue. What if he has a pes planus and needs more than a “more stable” shoe ? And, what if that pes planus is rigid and won’t accept a more rigid arch supporting device ? What are you gonna do then ?

The caveat?

There are no hard and fast rules AND there is no substitute for examining the person and asking LOTS of questions BEFORE putting them in a shoe. You must approach each case on a case-by-case basis with all factors brought into the fold to make the best clinical decision.  Simply watching them walk, as you have heard it over and over again here on The Gait Guys, will lead you into wrong assumptions much of the time. Sometimes the obvious fix is not possible or won’t be tolerated by the person’s foot, knee, hip or body.  So, sometimes you have to settle with something in-between. 

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