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Q: I’ve noticed that many young women in Japan walk pigeon-toed. What’s up with that?

A: Some say it’s simply fashion: Image-conscious women walk with their toes pointed inward because they think it makes them appear more feminine.

Some believe the practice has been passed down from generations of women wearing kimonos. A “correct,” graceful walk in a kimono requires a pigeon-toed posture, both for a dainty appearance and to prevent the kimono from flapping open. With the kimono being the ultimate symbol of Japanese femininity, perhaps the pigeon-toed walk that goes with it has become linked to ladyhood in modern Japanese culture.

Another consideration: Are the pigeon-toed walkers you’ve seen wearing impossibly high heels, or shoes with viciously pointy toes? Because anyone who’s ever tried walking in to-die-for shoes that also are murder on the feet will tell you that pinchy shoes will cause you to walk pigeon-toed, spraddle-legged, hopping on one foot, slouching 45 degrees to your right, or in whatever position will “DEAR GOD PLEASE” just stop the pain (but preserve the cute).

But other folks say more than vanity is at work here. In the past, Japanese home life involved a lot of sitting on the floor, and a favorite position for young girls was sitting with legs folded under them and feet turned inward underneath their backsides. This posture, so the theory goes, over a period of years can twist a girl’s hips, legs and feet and result in a pigeon-toed walk. Enough folks subscribe to this theory that stores commonly carry products that claim to undo this damage.

Got a question about goings-on in the Pacific? E-mail Stacy Chandler at

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