Toe Walking: What Every Parent Should Know

Toe Walking: What Every Parent Should Know

It’s not uncommon to observe kids under 2 years old walking almost exclusively on the balls of their feet. This is a stage of learning to walk, and it isn’t a cause for concern. As they develop, kids tend to outgrow toe walking and start using their heels in their walking patterns. 

Some kids continue to walk on their toes out of habit even after most of their peers stop, however. If your child does this, a visit to FootCare Specialists, Inc. in San Mateo and Half Moon Bay, California, may be in order. 

Our podiatrist David J. Kaplan, DPM, can examine your child's feet for arch and ball problems or other foot and ankle issues resulting from toe walking and can run some tests to make sure your child’s toe walking isn’t a sign of something deeper.

Toe walking isn’t necessarily a sign that your child will have foot problems later on, nor is it commonly a symptom of a serious condition. Yet staying informed gives you peace of mind about your child’s well-being. Here’s what you should know about toe walking as a parent.

Consequences of long-term toe walking

Walking almost exclusively on the toes or balls of your feet involves using different muscles than with a normal heel-to-toe gait. If your child’s toe walking habit persists after age 2, the result could be permanent changes in specific muscles, such as the gastrocnemius or soleus muscles in their calves. 

These muscles are both connected to the Achilles tendon and can shorten over time the more your child walks on their toes. Alternatively, your child could naturally have short calf muscles, which just makes toe walking easier for them. 

Tight calf muscles and Achilles tendon resulting from long-term childhood toe walking could potentially lead to a limited range of motion for your child’s feet and ankles or trouble wearing certain shoes, especially when it comes to athletics.

Dr. Kaplan offers advice for stretching and other solutions that can improve your child’s normal walking ability as well as their ability to participate in sports and physical activities.

When toe walking indicates something more serious

Under rare circumstances, long-term toe walking that doesn’t eventually resolve on its own could be a sign of an underlying medical condition, such as a neurological disorder. Several medical conditions affecting the nerves and muscles lead to unusual walking patterns, including cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and spinal cord abnormalities. 

During your visit, Dr. Kaplan asks an array of questions about your child’s walking pattern throughout the stages of growth and development, such as whether your child seems to favor one foot over the other and when your child reached specific developmental milestones aside from walking.

Many medical tests can lead to diagnoses of conditions or rule them out as the reason for your child’s tendency to tip-toe, such as neurological tests and imaging tests like X-rays to check for muscle imbalances. 

If your child hasn’t stopped toe walking, there’s no need to panic. Still, you should stay in contact with a podiatrist to monitor or evaluate the habit. Schedule an appointment over the phone or online today with the team at FootCare Specialists, Inc.

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