Children and Toe Walking

As parents of small children, we worry about all kinds of things. Is my picky eater getting the right nutrition? Is teething causing my baby’s fever? Will my child ever sleep through the night?

Here’s a common question that we hear frequently in our office: Should I be worried because my toddler walks on her toes almost all the time?

Toe walking is very common in younger children. In fact, more than half of the children who walk on their toes or on the balls of the feet will stop on their own by age 5. But parents naturally about foot care worry when the child’s walking development is not typical.

The reason for toe walking is largely unknown. It may be related to muscles or nerves, or a combination of both, or even to other unknown factors.

It’s true that toe walking may accompany certain disorders like muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy. But it also can occur in those who don’t have these conditions; these children are called idiopathic toe walkers.

Information for Parents on Toe Walking

  • For most children, toe walking does not signify an underlying problem and can even be just a habit.
  • Many children who toe walk are developing normally.
  • Idiopathic toe walking can run in families.
  • Consequences of walking on the toes can be Achilles tendon pain, stiffness and tightening.
  • Achilles tendon problems can be eased with stretching exercises. Parents can encourage their child to gently stretch while reading or watching TV.
  • For children under the age of 7, treatment for toe walking is unusually unnecessary unless the calf muscles or Achilles tendon have been shortened.

Treating Persistent Toe Walking

Stavros O. Alexopoulos, DPM urges parents of children who toe walk after the age of 2 to bring the child into our office. We’ll check for tightness in the Achilles tendon or calf muscles and look for any lack of coordination.

If we determine that a physical problem is influencing the toe walking, our treatment options include:

  • Physical therapy to gently stretch the Achilles tendon and calf muscles.
  • Splints or leg braces that can encourage a normal gait.
  • A series of casts to gradually move the toes toward the shin.

If non-invasive treatments don’t work, we will discuss surgery with you to lengthen the affected tendons or muscles.

We Can Counsel You on Your Child’s Toe Walking

Dr. Alexopoulos, board certified podiatrist has extensive experience in diagnosing and treating all types of pediatric foot and ankle problems. Many treatments and surgeries can be addressed right here in our office. Please call our Chicago office at (773) 561-8100 or request an appointment via the website. Your child will probably outgrow toe walking but please come see us if you have any concerns.