Toe-Walking Toddlers

When toddlers begin to walk, they sometimes walk up on their toes. This is often referred to as toe-walking. Toe-walking is common in young children and tends to go away by the age of 2 to 2 ½.

Generally, children progress from cruising along furniture, to walking behind a push toy, to standing on their own, to walking by themselves. Children will alternate between being on their toes to flat feet. Children need to be able to weight bear on flat feet. The inability to do this affects their overall balance. Standing on tiptoes makes standing quite a challenge. Children that toe-walk often have a difficult time standing still, jumping and landing, and frequently trip and stumble.

image credit: Sean Dreilinger

If at the age of 2, your child is still a toe-walker, make your pediatrician aware of it. Your pediatrician will probably evaluate your child’s walking pattern and check your child’s ankle flexibility.

If young children are allowed to consistently toe-walk, their calf muscles may get tight. If the calf muscles get tight, your pediatrician may recommend physical therapy. Physical therapy starts with stretching the tight muscles and strengthening the weaker muscles to achieve proper balance between the leg muscles. Sometimes further intervention is needed such as a cast or a brace to stretch the muscles for a prolonged period of time.

Usually, toe-walking is from in an unknown cause. Sometimes there are underlying reasons that your pediatrician may investigate if the toe-walking continues to be of concern.

There are several things you can do to encourage your child to get his or her feet flat:

  • walking on heels
  • marching
  • roller skating
  • ice skating
  • moon shoes
  • stepping on bubbles or bubble paper
  • standing on one foot
  • kicking a ball

All encourage foot flat positioning and improved balance. Stretching and working on getting your child’s feet flat through various activities will aid in decreasing the chances of tight calf muscles and allow for a much quicker resolution to toe-walking.

– Carol Buell and Amanda Froling, Beaumont Physical therapists specializing in pediatric care

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