Squatting with duck feet can limit your performance in the squat, and also increase your risk of injury. Therefore, it is important to address duck feet within your squat when it occurs.
So, how do you squat with duck feet? Squatting with duck feet can be improved by straightening or narrowing your stance, implementing proper squat cues, and mobilizing or relaxing tight muscles in the calves and hips. Orthotics can also be used as a temporary fix but should not become a crutch long term.
Let’s explain what it means to squat with duck feet, why it’s not ideal, the common causes, and how to fix it.
If you have other squat deficiencies, check out our technique guides:
- How To Squat With Uneven Legs (4 Tips To Fix)
- How To Fix Knee Valgus During Squats (7 Tips)
- How To Fix A Rounded Back During Squats
- How To Fix Heels Rising In The Squat (7 Tips)
- 4 Ways To Fix The Good Morning Squat
- How To Fix Leaning Forward In The Squat (5 Tips)
What Does Squatting With Duck Feet Mean?
Being duck-footed or out-toeing, is a condition where the feet point outwards instead of straight ahead.
In the squat, this will present itself as excessive external rotation of the legs with the toes pointing outwards.
Wondering how to place your toes in the squat? Check out my article on Should Your Toes Be Pointing In Or Out When Squatting?
How Do You Know If You Have Duck Feet?
It’s pretty simply to diagnose whether you have duck feet:
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart
- Look down at your feet
- If your feet are pointing outwards rather than straight, then you have duck feet
However, duck feet may only present themselves for some within the squat, and when the squat is loaded.
In general, you will want to point your toes outwards at an angle of around 15-30 degrees. Those with narrower stances may even favor an angle less than 15 degrees (i.e. more straight).
If during your squat the angle of your foot is in excess of 45 degrees, you will be considered to be duck-footed.
While being duck-footed is not always an issue, it can have negative effects on your squat.
Why Is Squatting With Duck Feet Bad?
In the squat, your feet are your base and having a stable base is important or overall balance.
When squatting with duck feet, this causes problems for how you load your ankles, knees and hips, and the overall stability of the movement.
The increase in external (outwards) rotation and outwards knee travel reduces the effectiveness of your quadriceps (a primary knee extensor) and adductor magnus (a primary hip extensor) to produce force.
In other words, you will have a hard time activating the right muscles that are responsible for producing force in the squat.
“Knee valgus” is a fancy term that means your knees cave inward in the squat. People with duck feet often have this problem too while squatting.
Common Causes For Duck Feet While Squatting
There are 4 main causes for duck feet while squatting:
- Genetics: It could be a genetic issue wherein you are born with more externally rotated legs. This does not mean that you cannot appropriately address the issue with the advice outlined below.
- Being Flat Footed: Being flat footed can cause you to also be duck footed, or in some cases just present that way. Addressing your flat foot issues can help solve the presence of duck feet.
- Muscle Tightness In The Hips Or Calves: Muscle tightness can also lead to a duck footed position. Overly tight muscles in your calves or hips are a frequent cause of a duck footed stance.
- Improper Set Up: Lifters may not even be duck footed in their day to day life, but due to an improper set up to squat they are duck footed for the exercise. Excessively wide stances can contribute to this or just lack of awareness during the set up.
Correcting Duck Feet While Squatting
The 4 ways to correct duck feet whilst squatting are:
- Set Up With Straighter Feet
- Implement Proper Cueing
- Relieve Tight Muscles In The Calves And Hips
- Wear Orthotics
Set Up With Straighter Feet
The quickest and easiest fix for duck feet in the squat to address your set up.
Setting your stance straighter is an immediate way to address the issue within your squat and will put you into a stronger and safer position overall
For those with wider stances, narrowing your stance can also help as there will not be the same demands for external rotation at the hip compared to the wider stance.
This narrower stance may also allow you to track your knees over your feet better, enabling a more stable squat and better recruitment of the knee and hip extensors.
From here you can implement further cues to address your foot positioning.
Implement Proper Cueing
While there is an endless list of squat cues you could apply, for duck feet you will need cues that help you to limit the amount of external rotation present in the squat.
Here are 2 that will benefit you in addressing duck feet:
- Knees Forward Over Toes
- Big Toe Down
Knees forward over toes ensures that your knees are tracking forward and keeps them over your feet which is a more stable and stronger position, rather than them driving outwards as duck footed position would be.
Big toe down reinforces this further and helps maintain a normal range of internal (inward) rotation and better recruitment of the hip extensors rather than the externally rotated, and compromised position within a duck-footed squat.
Relieve Tight Muscles In The Calves And Hips
Reducing tightness in the musculature in the legs and hips is key for reducing the presence of duck feet.
To address the foot, ankle, and calf try these two exercises:
Rolling The Bottom Of The Foot
Rolling The Outside Of The Calf
For more ideas, check out my article on How To Increase Ankle Mobility For Squats.
To address tightness at the hip:
Piriformis and Glute Stretch
For more ideas, check out my article on How To Increase Hip Mobility For Squats.
Beyond stretching, you can also use either a lacrosse ball or foam roller to apply pressure to the target muscles prior to squatting.
Here are some general guidelines for performing soft tissue mobility:
- Find a tender spot and sustain pressure until pain/tenderness subsides by approximately 75% (Clark et al. 2014).
- Apply pressure so that you feel the first sensation of ‘perceived pain’ (Macdonald et al., 2014). You don’t want to lightly apply pressure, it should be somewhat painful initially.
- Aim to do 5-10 strokes over the targeted muscle group for approximately 30-60 seconds (Peacock et al., 2014).
- Try to relax as much as possible (don’t tense your muscles)
Similar to addressing flat feet, orthotics are recommended to those with duck feet.
Orthotics are a device that you put inside your shoe that raises the inside of your foot and supports the arch.
By increasing the support of the foot and lifting the arch there is increased stability of the foot that can help improve alignment and lessen the need for this externally rotated, toes out position.
Orthotics should realistically be used as a temporary aid to address your duck feet whilst working through the above recommendations. A prop, rather than a solution.
Orthotics can also be expensive, especially if you have multiple pairs of lifting shoes each requiring their own orthotic.
If you have duck feet while squatting, try a narrower stance, or straighten your feet in your current stance, implement cues that address the excessive external rotation in your squat and stretch and relax the musculature of the calves and hips. As a temporary fix, orthotics can be used while addressing the root causes.
Clark, M., Lucett, S., Sutton, B. (2014). NASM Essentials of Corrective Exercises. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Kohls-Gatzoulis, J., Angel, J., Singh, D., Haddad, F., Livingstone, J., Berry, G. (2004). Tibilais Posterior Dysfunction: A Common Treatable Cause of Adult Acquired Flatfoot. BMJ, 329: 7478, 1328-1333.
Macdonald, G., Button, D., Drinkwater, E. Behm, D. (2014). Foam Rolling as a Tool After an Intense Bout of Physical Activity. Medicine Science Sport Exercise. 46(1), 131-143.Peacock, C., Krein, D., Silver, T., Sander, G., Carlowitz, K. (2014). An Acute Bout of Self-Myofascial Release in The Form of Foam Rolling Improves Performance Testing. International Journal of Exercise Science. 7(3), 202-211.
About The Author
Jacob Wymer is a powerlifting coach and PhD Candidate in Biomechanics and Strength and Conditioning, researching the application of barbell velocity measurements to powerlifting. He is involved in powerlifting across the board, from athlete to meet director. Jacob runs his coaching services at EST Barbell. You can also connect with him on Instagram.