If you’ve noticed your young child walking on their toes, you may be wondering whether it’s normal – or if something is wrong. Today, the My FootDr team is explaining toe-walking, why kids do it, what it means, and if it’s a problem!
What Is Toe Walking & Is It Normal?
When a person walks on the balls of their feet without their heels touching the ground, this is known as toe walking. When a child is first learning to walk, it is normal for them to explore a range of walking patterns as they discover what they find comfortable and stable. Hence, it is relatively normal up to the age of three.
For some kids, toe walking may be viewed as a fun activity that becomes a habit. Sometimes, prolonged toe walking may lead to a shortened Achilles tendon (as it is held in this position while they walk), meaning that kids are no longer able to put their heel to the floor. In this case, a Podiatrist can create a treatment plan to lengthen the Achilles tendon to help correct the problem.
When Is Toe Walking A Problem?
When toe walking persists beyond the age of three, it is recommended that you bring your child in for an assessment. This assessment will check their walking patterns, muscle tone and balance, the range of motion available at their joints and more.
Sometimes, there may be a neurological problem or medical condition (e.g. cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy or spinal cord abnormality) that is causing the problem. Other times it may be idiopathic – meaning that there is no distinct reason, and the child is likely to grow out of it. Either way, it’s important to get a clear answer with an assessment so that appropriate action can be taken where required.
How Do You Treat Toe Walking?
Here at My FootDr, we love working with kids and treat every child individually, based on what we find in their assessments. This means that their care may involve:
- Stretching exercises – prescribed child-friendly stretches designed to gently stretch the tight muscles (often the calves) that are contributing to the toe walking
- Strengthening exercises – to gently stabilise and strengthen the muscles around the feet, ankles and legs, so kids feel comfortable walking heel-to-toe
- Orthotics and Ankle Foot Orthotics (AFO) – to assist with stretching and encourage a flat, heel-to-toe gait
- Surgery – in severe cases that do not respond to conservative treatment, surgery may be required to lengthen the tendons
Worried About Your Child’s Feet?
If you’re worried about your child’s feet, whether they are toe walking or it’s something else, bring them in to see their My FootDr Podiatrist for an appointment. One in three of our patients are kids! We love helping kids with their foot health, so that they can lead happy and active lives.
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