Toe walking is a foot condition in which the child walks on the balls of the feet without putting much weight on the heel or other parts of the foot. Typically, we refer to it as walking on our tiptoes.
Small children usually begin to walk around the time that they turn 1 year old. While they’re learning to walk, it’s common for toddlers to walk on their toes, especially if they’re used to walking in a baby walker. However, they should outgrow toe walking as long as they’re growing and developing normally. And, eventually, they’ll walk with a normal heel-to-toe gait with their feet flat on the ground.
But in some cases, a child may continue to toe walk as they get older. If your child is still walking consistently on their toes after the age of 3 and/or it seems like they can’t bear weight on a flat foot, you should talk to your child’s doctor to determine the cause.
Causes of Toe Walking
In most cases, a child will continue toe walking out of habit without a clear reason for why they’re doing it. However, other cases may involve a physical issue, a neuromuscular problem, or a sensory or developmental disorder. These cases may be due to:
- A short Achilles tendon. This tendon connects the calf muscle to the back of the heel bone. If the Achilles tendon is too short, the heel will be raised, preventing the heel from touching the ground when walking. Sometimes referred to as a foot equines condition.
- Cerebral palsy, a group of disorders that involve brain and nervous system functions like movement. It’s caused by injuries or abnormal brain development that occurs as a child develops in the womb, during birth, or as the child grows – up to 2 years of age. Children with cerebral palsy may toe walk due to muscle stiffness and difficulty controlling body movement.
- Muscular dystrophy, a group of disorders that involve muscle weakness and loss of muscle tissue that gets worse over time. Children with muscular dystrophy may toe walk due to weak leg muscles.
- Autism, a group of disorders that affect a child’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Toe walking in children with autism may be due to hypersensitivity of having their feet touch the ground; as a means to calm themselves; or due to visual problems.
- Severs Disease. This is a condition usually developed around the ages of 9 -12 and is caused from a slowly developing growth plate in conjunction with a rapid developing structural foot in general. This condition is very painful, yet easily treated.
Problems Associated with Toe Walking
If toe walking is left untreated, it may:
- Lead to muscle tightness that will make it hard for your child to stand with a flat foot, maintain their balance, hop on one foot, or wear shoes.
- Cause your child to roll their heels in or out as they walk due to ankle weakness.
- Increase your child’s risk of falling since their center of gravity is displaced.
- Cause embarrassment and social stigma as your child gets older. Most toe walkers bob up and down as they walk. If severe they may be teased and/or bullied.
Toe Walking Treatment
Early intervention is the key to treatment, so have your child diagnosed and treated when they’re younger (2-3 years old) as opposed to waiting when they’re older (5 years old). Although treatment is still possible until the growth plates in the feet are completely set. Your doctor can determine growth plate development.
Treatment options include:
- Physical therapy – Involves stretching exercises of the leg and foot muscles to improve your child’s gait and balance, and strengthen their Achilles tendon, while keeping it supple.
- Custom foot orthotics – Gradually help the child develop a normal heel-to-toe gait. The child wears a UCBL (University of California Bio-mechanical Laboratories) foot orthotic inside a sturdy shoe that doesn’t bend easily in order to encourage the child’s heel to strike the floor. The UCBL foot orthotic is a custom-molded plastic device made to the shape of your child’s foot with a very high or deep heel cup that controls the child’s hindfoot and ankle. Slowly, over a period of a few weeks to a few months, depending upon the severity of the child’s toe walking, the incline of the orthotic device is decreased by 1/8 inch until the child’s heel is striking the floor normally.
- Leg braces or splints – Stretch the Achilles tendon and help the child to develop a normal heel-to-toe gait.
- Serial casting – Stretch the Achilles tendon and the calf muscles, while increasing the range of motion in your child’s ankle. They’re a series of below-the-knee plaster or fiberglass casts that are changed weekly to increase the amount of flexion of the foot.
- Surgery – May be recommended, if the above treatments fail to lengthen the Achilles tendon or lower back leg muscles.
WalkEZStore.com Offers Custom Orthotic Solution for Toe Walkers
If your child is a toe walker, it’s best to have their feet examined by a certified professional. If foot orthotics are recommended, the WalkEZStore.com offers custom UCBL foot orthotics. Unlike foot orthotics sold over-the-counter, our UCBL foot orthotics are custom molded to your child’s individual feet, providing your child with the right amount of support or correction that they need. Our foot orthotics help your child’s feet function more efficiently while improving posture and balance. Plus, our UCBL foot orthotics are padded for your child’s comfort.
For more information on our custom UCBL foot orthotics, contact the WalkEZStore.com today.
Because … when your feet feel good, you feel good.
Note: If foot conditions persist, you should take your child to see your doctor. This may indicate a more serious condition. Proper diagnosis and treatment may be required.