Toe walking, or when a person walks on the balls of their feet, is a fairly common condition among toddlers and small children. Most children will grow out of this phase when they become more adept at walking and balancing with increased motor function through experience. While more common in male children, toe walking is still an issue for females, as well. Toe walking seems to be unrelated to whether or not the child wears shoes but is more often witnessed in bare footed toddlers as they may dislike the feeling of the ground on their soft, bare feet.
If not corrected, toe walking can lead to long-term issues, including tightness in a child's calf muscles and decreased articulation in the ankles, which in turn promotes continued toe walking. They might also experience pain in their calves or back pain if the habit continues. Toe walking can also be an early indicator of more serious physiological and neurological disorders, including congenitally short Achilles tendons, muscle spasticity, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and Autism.
If your child has been walking for more than four months and is on their toes more than 50% of the time, they could benefit from physical therapy.
If your child is a skilled walker and is still toe walking, they should be evaluated by a physician as soon as possible to determine the cause.
Our Pediatric Rehabilitation Program offers a multidisciplinary approach to helping children overcome issues like toe walking.
While treatments for toe walking vary dramatically depending on the cause of the condition they can include:
- An AFO (ankle-foot orthosis) brace worn during the day, night or both in order to stretch the Achilles tendon
- A series of casts that are changed out weekly or less often which stretch the Achilles tendon progressively
- Botox therapy to paralyze calf muscles to allow for easier stretching of the Achilles tendon, usually used in conjunction with the above treatments
- Surgery to lengthen and correct the Achilles tendon
If you think your child might benefit from a physical therapy evaluation or for more information visit AdventHealth Sports Med and Rehab. You can also bring your child into our Pediatric Rehab program at the AdventHealth Sports Medicine facility for a toe walking evaluation with no physician referral required. This family-centered program focuses on the unique needs of each child, empowering parents with skills and strategies necessary to support their child's physical, emotional and spiritual health.
Toe walking can be a challenge to overcome, but with our help and your determination, your child can start out on the right foot toward improved health and wellness.