Should You Be Worried About Toe-Walking?
Toe walking describes walking on the balls of the feet, without the heels touching the ground. It is not uncommon as young children learning to walk confidently experiment with walking styles, but it should not persist for long periods and past the age of three. Here at The Podiatrist, we many children every year that do continue to walk on their toes for longer than what we’d consider as ‘typical’. So today, we’re sharing what toe-walking means, why kids do it, and what you should do if your child is regularly walking on their toes.
When is toe-walking a problem?
When your little one is just starting to “find their feet” and discover walking, it may be a normal part of becoming comfortable with their gait. This is usually up to the age of three, and doesn’t last for very long - or happens only occasionally. This occasional toe walking isn’t problematic - but if toe-walking is the only or primary method of walking, or occurs very regularly past the age of two, then it’s best to get your child seen by your podiatrist to understand what’s going on.
Why is toe-walking a problem?
Our biggest concern with regular toe-walking is that the Achilles tendon and calf muscles tighten and contract, as they remain in this shortened position when we are up on our toes. If this happens, it may become more comfortable for your child to walk on their toes than using the regular heel-to-toe movement. They will feel tightness (and potentially even pain) at the back of the heels and legs when their heels touch the ground. As they continue to toe-walk, the contraction may increase, and it may be difficult for the heels to reach the ground at all.
Toe-walking is seen more in certain conditions, too. There is some evidence that links cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy to toe-walking, but this is very uncommon and has additional symptoms, too. It has been discussed whether autism may be linked to toe-walking, but no clinical evidence has been found. The truth is that any child can choose to walk on their toes, and may simply see it as fun or a game that turns into a learned behaviour.
How we help toe-walking
Where toe-walking is encouraged by tight calf muscles and Achilles tendon, we’ll work with you and your child to gently loosen the muscles while helping to support their feet and ankles. This may involve:
- A gentle yet effective stretching programme
- Manual manipulation of the calves and Achilles
- Orthotics where needed, to help support the feet and ankles
We understand how concerning toe-walking can be for parents - and do everything we can to promote healthy foot function, growth and development for your kids. If you’re worried about your child’s walking, bring them in to see our team of experienced podiatrists. We love helping families optimise their health so they can realise their full potential!