What are Bowlegs?

Children with bowlegs have a condition in which the legs curve outward at the knees even while standing with their feet and ankles together.

A genetic abnormality or a vitamin D deficiency can cause bowlegs. In most cases, the condition will correct itself with natural growth. If the legs do not straighten on their own or the condition become worse, talk to your child’s pediatrician to determine if a visit to a pediatric orthopedic doctor is needed.

Find a Pediatric Orthopedic Specialist

Search Now

What Causes Bowlegs?

Bowlegs can be caused by different factors, including 

  • Genetics 
  • Rickets, which is a disease caused by vitamin D deficiency
  • Trauma

Genetics: Genetic bowlegs is an inherited condition that affects infants and young children and typically corrects itself as the child grows older. 

Vitamin D deficiency: Vitamin D deficiency causes a softening of the bones in babies due to inadequate absorption of vitamin D, which can result in bowed legs. Rickets: This condition is rare in the U.S., but can occur in children experiencing rapid growth without sufficient amounts of calcium and vitamin D. 

Trauma: If the child has a broken bone or other leg injury that does not heal properly, one or both legs may become bowed.

Symptoms of Bowlegs

The most common sign of bowlegs is knees that are further apart than the ankles when standing with feet and legs together. Other symptoms of bowlegs may include:

  • Uneven hips or waistline
  • Abnormally wide stance when standing
  • A small gap between both legs when sitting down
  • Inward curvature of the lower back
  • Knees that point outward when standing or walking

If bowlegs are caused by rickets, symptoms may include delayed growth, weak muscles or bones, and softening of the bones. 


A smiling boy in the parkDiagnosis

A physician will typically perform a physical examination of the legs and hips to diagnose bowlegs in children. X-rays may be taken to confirm a diagnosis. In addition, the doctor will look for an outward curved shape of the lower leg bones when standing or sitting.

A doctor may measure the angle between the knees and ankles to determine if the curve is significant. Sometimes the doctor may order an MRI or CT scan to look for any underlying causes of bowlegs.

Ultimately, a combination of physical examination and imaging can help diagnose bowlegs in children.


Treatment of bowlegs in children typically depends on the underlying cause. While mild cases often do not require treatment, more severe cases may be addressed through physical therapy or bracing. 

If bowlegs are caused by a medical condition such as rickets, Vitamin D supplements and calcium can help treat the disease. In some cases, surgery may be recommended to correct the alignment of the legs. 

In all cases, it is important to work with a health-care provider to determine the right course of treatment for your child. 


Bowlegs can be prevented in children by maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle. A balanced diet, with plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and protein sources, is important for healthy bone development during childhood. 

Ensuring your child stays active through regular physical activity will also help prevent bowlegs from developing. 

Ensuring they get enough calcium and vitamin D in their diet is essential for healthy bone development.