Toe Walking: A Common Behavior in Many Toddlers

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As parents, you've got plenty to worry about. Are our meals giving them adequate vitamins and minerals? Will she be able to dance in the recital? Why doesn't he sleep all night yet?

One of the worries that many of us have concerns when we observe our toddler walking on the ball of the foot, or on tip toe, most of the time. This worry is certainly understandable as you want your child's walking development to proceed normally.

At Palm Beach Orthopaedic Institute, we are often asked this question and we'd like to reassure you that toe walking is very common in young children. In fact, more than 50% of all toe walkers will grow out of it by age 5.

Interesting Facts about Toe Walking

  • The cause for much toe walking is unknown! Sometimes it is caused by a muscle or nerve issue, or both. Toe walking may also happen in individuals who suffer from muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy. When toe walking occurs in children without any of these conditions, we call it idiopathic toe walking.
  • Idiopathic toe walking can be observed as a family trait.
  • Most of the children who toe walk are developing normally, without any triggering condition, and may walk like this out of habit.
  • Toe walking can be associated with Achilles tendon problems including pain, stiffness and tightening. Stretching exercises can ease tendon tightness. These exercises can be encouraged by parents while the child is reading or watching TV.
  • For those under age 7, treatment for toe walking is usually not required, unless we discover that the calf muscles or Achilles tendon has been shortened.

Treating Chronic Toe Walking

Please bring your child in for an examination if you observe toe walking at age 3 and above. We'll watch as your child walks to check for coordination and we'll test for Achilles tendon or calf muscle tightness.

If we find any issue that may be causing the toe walking, we will recommend:

  • Physical therapy to gently stretch the local tendons and muscles.
  • Wearing a splint or leg brace to aid in achieving a better gait.
  • A series of casts to help move the toes gradually toward the shin.

For stubborn cases that persist as the child ages and dramatically affect his gait, we will discuss surgical options with you.

Don't Let Toe Walking Continue Too Long

Dr. John Schilero, DPM, board certified podiatrist has the right experience to diagnose and treat toe walking issues as well as all other pediatric and adult foot and ankle problems. Please call us at 561-694-7776 EXT. 41 to make an appointment at one of our four offices conveniently located in Palm Beach County. You can also request an appointment at the website. Let us help get your child off on the right foot with a comprehensive foot exam!