I would recommend you move quickly away from anyone that pushes the “fixing your duck walk” or fixing your “butt wink” narrative. The reason being, that by making this statement the assumption has been made that this needs “fixing”. You simply cannot make a judgement on this kind of movement pattern without knowing the history of the individual, and by assuming that every “duck walk” or “butt winker” needed fixing is incredibly naive and potentially harmful.
In some cases it could be argued that, potentially, a therapist affecting a walking pattern with the toes pointed outwards (so called “duck walking” position) could be beneficial. Those cases involve an acquired, adaptive walking pattern from a previous injury that has probably resolved and therefore this pattern may not be necessary anymore. You certainly can get left with this walking pattern after a period of limping, or adapting your walk in accordance with pain, and in my experience these are normally on the injured side and therefore makes walking look very asymmetrical. However, a thorough history should be taken to see if this is relevant and useful to you as an individual.
I think the most important factor around this walking pattern is around your hip joint shape/orientation, if those people stating that you should fix your “duck walk” have no utterance of this term then please nod, listen, say your goodbyes and then remove all memory of the conversation, because your hip joint shape is that important.
Your structure will define your function, and in terms of hip joint shape someone with a retroverted hip joint (also known as femoral retroversion) may present with this walking pattern. The fact is that although the feet do not looked “aligned” or“neutral”, the hip joint will likely be just that…. Neutral, sitting nicely in the acetabulum (hip joint/socket). By “fixing” this foot position and pointing the toes forwards, a retroverted hip joint will then sit rotated inwards (medial rotation) within the acetabulum and is no longer neutral, creating compression in the joint. This can, in fact, create issues itself as your body would have modelled movement and its structure around a retroverted hip joint, putting stress into certain tissues and the body will respond by suring up these areas to accommodate the stress. Moving this quickly (in this example always walking with feet pointing forwards) can put stress into things that may not have the resilience to sustain such stresses and can, therefore, create an issue that could have been avoided.
By the way, there are some benefits to having a retroverted hip joint, as it is an innately more stable joint than the more mobile anteverted hip joint. There are several other factors that feed into the total stability levels of a hip joint, but in terms of the orientation of the femoral head the retroverted hip is the more stable kind. This tends to create less of a demand for the soft tissues of the hip to create stability and therefore more of the work tends to be on force production. The added stability of the joint creates a strong base from which those muscle push from, which is advantageous in most physical pursuits.
A nice, albeit less scientific, way to have an idea about your hip joint shape is around foot position and squat depth. Again, there are many other things that feed into this but in terms of a retroverted hip joint, those people tend to have difficulty squatting to a good depth, with good form when their toes are pointed forwards…. However, when their feet are turned outwards they can sit, with good form into a much deeper squat with good control and less need to bend forwards and/or less feeling of falling backwards. As mentioned, many other things feed into squat depth and foot position so don’t just hang your hat on this.
Hopefully this has challenged some beliefs around this “duck walk” topic, which some places have made a huge amount of money, peddling treatments without a genuine rationale suitable for the paying client.
Thanks for reading