What is Toe Walking and is it bad for you?
Walking on the toes or the balls of the feet, also known as toe walking, is fairly common in children who are just beginning to walk. Most children outgrow it, but sometimes it can result from certain conditions, including cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and autism spectrum disorder.
Children who consistently toe walk more than 80% of the time without a medical cause after age 3 are considered idiopathic toe walkers (ITW). Long-term consequences of persistent toe walking include shortened Achilles tendon, which can lead to abnormal gait patterns as well as posture and balance problems in adulthood. Research is still working to find evidence to explain exactly why idiopathic toe walking occurs. We do know some causes could be related to sensory-seeking behaviors, tactile defensiveness, poor proprioceptive awareness, vestibular system dysfunction, anterior and/or intrinsic foot muscle weakness, neurological disorders, and overall sensory modulation/processing difficulties. Research has shown that children with ITW have difficulty using vestibular and visual systems evidenced by increased falls from balance issues.
If your child is still toe walking after age 2, talk to your doctor about it. Make an appointment sooner if your child also has tight leg muscles, stiffness in the Achilles tendon or a lack of muscle coordination.
If your child has been toe walking (using this gait pattern 80% of the time) for longer than 1 month, it is recommended they get a comprehensive evaluation to determine the cause and to correct before requiring orthotic intervention or surgeries. An occupational therapist can provide a full comprehensive evaluation to provide a multi-sensory and bio-mechanical approach to correct this.