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Genu varus - Bowlegs

When you stand with your feet together, the family cat can jump between your legs.  

History:  Like genu valgus, there are genetic and environmental components to the problem.

The two most common environmental contributors are those who rode horses while their bones were in the developmental stage and the second reason is malnutrition. 

Malnutrition is very uncommon in our generation.  

Again, with bowlegs there is a strong genetic component. 

The next time you go to a family reunion you will notice, “Golly, everybody on Aunt Mable’s side of the family has bowed legs.” 

Hopefully, these family reunions are more peaceful than those with folks with knock knees.

Your treatment depends on what caused your bowlegs.  If you are a real cowboy or cowgirl and your bones have grown around a horse and your leg bones are actually bent, you’ll have to focus on flexibility.

If your bowlegs are genetic your treatment may be more complicated than we can explain here.  


  • Your knees do not touch, even when standing with your feet together.  Somebody can throw the family cat between your knees.
  • Sometimes, but not always, your kneecaps point to the outside when you stand with your together.
  • A lot of patients with bowlegs have very high arches.




      • Most kinesiology tape techniques are for knock knees.  Your taping will be vastly different than the ‘typical’ kinesiology tape job.
  • Continue running but avoid aggressive speed work and hill repeats, especially downhill running.

Restore full motion to the knees:

A lot of patients with bowlegs have tight IT bands.  Real horsemen have pretty tight hip adductors (the muscles on the inside of your thigh.)  The seated sequential short-term stretches for piriformis and IT bands will address both of these problems.

  • Stretching does not have to be part of your warm-up or cool-down.  But it HAS to be part of your training program. LIN

These patient’s usually do not need to begin with non-weightbearing exercises. 

They can go straight to weightbearing exercises.  (I use the term ‘straight’ figuratively.  Your legs are not going straight anywhere.)

Correct running mechanics
  • Gradually return to your previous running. 

  • Start on relatively flat ground or even on a treadmill.  The best part of returning to running with a treadmill is that you can actually hear your footsteps.  Also, a lot of treadmills are in front of a mirror so you can see your hands move and your feet move. 

  • If your arms or legs swing weird, you may want to have a physical therapist complete an evaluation before you return to full running.  Listen and ‘feel’ how you run. 

  • Is one leg hitting the ground harder than the other?  Does one arm swing differently than the other? 

  • Until you can run without pain and with fairly symmetrical running mechanics, you are still at risk of reproducing your old injury or creating a whole new injury to another part of your body.

  • As soon as you can run without pain and without a limp you can return to your normal running routine.

Return to running speedwork and hills. 

After you have been able to run on flat ground for a week with your with your normal training and have not had any pain, you can begin to add speed and hill training to your program.

My favorite step, get back to full running! 

Have fun.  Eventually you will bust something else and be back to the website to fix that.  

If you follow the steps on the website for 2-6 weeks (depending on how badly you hurt yourself the first time and on how long you tried to ‘run through the pain’) and your problem does not resolve, then call our clinic for an appointment and we can do something Dr. Google cannot do.  We can complete a hands-on evaluation, in-person evaluation to determine the cause of your pain.


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  • Apply the kinesiology tape to your knee before you start your weight-bearing exercises.

  • These are done slowly, with a short range of motion, and STOP BEFORE IT HURTS.

  • Most runners have to work to keep their knees out over their feet.  You certainly do not.

  • Wall-slides, sit-to-stand, static lunges, lateral step-ups, etc. 

  • If you can, complete these in front of a mirror so you can see if your knee does any silly side-to-side movement as you complete your exercises.  If it does this, slow down and emphasize control versus speed or depth of squats/lunges LIN 

  • As soon as you can step down from the stair without pain or complete a deep squat without pain, you can progress to your regular strength training and running programs.

  • Continue to tape your knee before your hard workouts.