Toe walking is observed when a child walks on the balls of his or her toes or walks with a ‘bouncy’ gait pattern. Often kids will experiment with going up onto their toes as they are learning to walk, but if they don’t spend a lot of time in this position and easily transition onto flat feet, it may not be a problem. If toe walking is persistent, however, therapy intervention may be necessary. Toe walking is not an efficient way to move and can lead to muscle tightness and pain as children grow. Despite common misconceptions, toe walking is not something that kids will outgrow. In fact, the earlier that children begin treatment, the better!
Children may walk on their toes for multiple reasons. Abnormal muscle tone, leg length difference, tightness and abnormal patterns of movement can all contribute to toe walking. Over time, as a child continues to walk on their toes and as the child begins to grow, the entire body adapts to this habit. Muscles in the ankles, hips, and back can become shortened impacting the way the joints move. This can lead to poor balance and coordination as well as difficulty with common activities, such as running, skipping, and hopping. Pediatric physical and occupational therapists are specifically trained to assess kids’ movement patterns and make recommendations for treatment. They can assist in ruling out some of the causes of toe walking and can determine if treatment is necessary and, if so, what treatment techniques may be most effective. Physical and occupational therapists can not only increase ankle range of motion and strength, but may also use a variety of techniques and equipment to retain the body to walk with a more efficient heel to toe gait pattern. These programs are fun and individualized to help meet each specific child’s goals.
If you think that your child walks on his or her toes, has trouble maintaining flat feet, appears to have stiffness through their legs or often trips or appears uncoordinated, a physical or occupational therapy evaluation is recommended. It is never too early or too late to have your child assessed. Kids are at the perfect age to learn and make changes as they grow!
This blog post was written by Jennifer Cowan and Mary Kelly, physical therapists and pediatric clinical specialists.
Fox Valley Physical Therapy & Wellness
2011 Dean Street, Unit B, St. Charles, Illinois 60174