Which muscles are typically underactive when the feet turn out?


Feet turning out, also known as “duck feet” or external rotation of the feet, is a common postural issue. It can lead to various problems, including misalignment of the knees and hips. This condition often indicates a weakness or underactivity of specific muscle groups. In this article, we will explore the muscles typically underactive when the feet turn out.

The Mechanics of Feet Turning Out

Before we delve into the specific muscles, it’s important to understand the mechanics behind feet turning out. This condition often arises from imbalances in muscle strength and flexibility. The underactive muscles are typically those that should play a role in stabilizing and aligning the lower body.

Identifying Underactive Muscles

1. Gluteus Medius and Minimus

  • Location: These muscles are located on the outer side of the hips.
  • Function: The gluteus medius and minimus are crucial for stabilizing the pelvis and preventing excessive hip drop. When they are underactive, the hips are less supported, which can lead to feet turning out.

2. Adductors

  • Location: The adductor muscles are found on the inner thigh.
  • Function: They play a role in bringing the legs back towards the midline of the body. Weakness in the adductors can contribute to feet turning out.

3. Posterior Tibialis

  • Location: This muscle is located on the back of the lower leg.
  • Function: The posterior tibialis helps control the inward rolling motion of the ankle. When underactive, it can lead to excessive external rotation of the feet.
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4. Peroneals

  • Location: The peroneal muscles are on the outer side of the lower leg.
  • Function: They assist in controlling the outward rolling motion of the ankle. Weakness in the peroneals can contribute to feet turning out.

Effects of Underactive Muscles on Posture

When the aforementioned muscles are underactive, it can lead to a cascade of postural issues. These may include:

  • Knee Valgus: This is a condition where the knees cave in towards each other, often seen in squatting movements.
  • Hip Drop: Weakness in the hip stabilizers can lead to a drop on one side when standing on a single leg.
  • Pronation of the Feet: The arches of the feet may collapse, leading to flat feet and further contributing to the issue.

Corrective Exercises and Strengthening

Addressing underactive muscles is crucial for correcting feet turning out. Incorporating specific exercises to target these muscle groups, such as clamshells for the gluteus medius or adductor squeezes for the adductors, can be highly beneficial.


Feet turning out is a common postural issue that often indicates underactivity in specific muscle groups. Understanding which muscles are typically underactive allows for targeted corrective exercises and strengthening. By addressing these imbalances, individuals can improve their posture, reduce the risk of associated injuries, and enhance overall lower body alignment. Remember to consult a fitness or healthcare professional if you have concerns about your posture or exercise routine. With dedication and consistent training, it is possible to correct feet turning out and achieve optimal lower body alignment.

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