You may have noticed your child walking on their toes, or maybe you've noticed a child of a friend or a child you see a daycare sometimes seems to tip-toe constantly. Why do they do that, and is it a cause for concern? As a Physical Therapist, I want to educate you on why a child may be walking on their toes, and at what point you need (or don't need) to see a doctor.
3 Main Reasons Children May Toe Walk
1. They may have an underlying diagnosis, which could be any condition that causes an abnormal increase in muscle tone may lead to toe walking; i.e. cerebral palsy.
2. It might be sensory issues. Children may walk on their toes if they're seeking extra sensory input or are hypersensitive to certain textures on the surfaces that they are walking on; they will be more prone to walk on their toes to avoid uncomfortable textures or to get more input from their joints by locking their ankles and knees
3. It could be idiopathic (unknown). In some cases there's truly no reason; it can turn into a strong habit and cause shortening of the calf muscles, which then makes it difficult to achieve a foot flat to be able to walk heel-toe. This turns into a cycle: walking on toes because of the habit, muscles get tight and shorten, harder to walk flat footed, then more prone to walk on toes.
Toe walking may be considered appropriate if:
• Your child is just learning to walk
• Your child is under the age of two years old
• Your child can walk woth a heel-toe pattern when you ask them to
Seek professional help for toe walking when:
• Your child toe walks past the age of two years old
• Your child toe walks the majority of the time
• Your child demonstrates decreased eye contact, decreased coordination, or difficulty with gross or fine motor activities
If you're concerned that your child may need assistance with their toe walking, give us a call to set up an evaluation or consultation!