When children are learning to walk, it’s normal for them to walk in a variety of ways which may seem atypical.
This might look like they are stomping or walking on their tip toes.
However, if they’re still walking on their toes past two years old, it’s a good idea to speak to a medical professional.
It could be a sign of an underlying health condition.
Toe walking is not always something serious, but is always something that should be addressed as it could lead to joint pain or further difficulties with a child’s development as they age.
Here at Little Feet Pediatric Therapy In Washington DC, we offer pediatric physical therapy treatment for toe walking that can help.
But what is toe walking?
How can you tell if your child has it?
And what can you do about it?
Keep reading to find out more.
What Is Toe Walking?
Toe walking is a common walking pattern in children who are first learning to walk.
Your child is toe walking if they are using their toes, or the balls of their feet to walk.
You’ll notice that their heels don’t touch the ground as they walk.
Most children will outgrow toe walking after the age of two.
Why Do Children Toe Walk?
There are various reasons for a child to toe walk.
They could have muscle tightness, muscle weakness, seeking sensory input, and more.
We’ll go through some of the most common conditions that can cause toe walking below.
1. Autism Spectrum Disorder
Toe walking is more common with autistic children.
The reason why this happens isn’t fully understood, and it’s different for different children.
It may be related to a shortened Achilles tendon in their ankle.
If that’s the case, your pediatric physical therapist can provide exercises to stretch it out and increase mobility.
It might also have something to do with issues with the vestibular system.
Your vestibular system is located inside your ear, and its role is to help you maintain your balance.
Vestibular issues are more common in autistic children.
A pediatric physical therapy approach to autism will explore whether it’s an issue with your child’s Achilles tendon, vestibular system or something else.
2. Sensory Processing Issues
Sensory processing issues may be a reason that your child toe walks.
This means an issue with the part of your child’s brain that processes the information it gets from their senses.
This includes the traditional five senses:
But it also includes three other “hidden” senses:
- Vestibular – your sense of balance
- Proprioception – knowing where your body parts are and how to control them
- Interoception – sensations from inside your body, you’re your heartbeat or “butterflies” when you’re nervous
Some children have an increased or decreased sensitivity to sensory information they get from these senses which could result in toe walking.
If your child dislikes the feeling of the floor beneath them, for example, they may walk on their toes to decrease the amount of skin touching the floor.
Toe walking also creates more pressure on the balls of their feet so if your child is looking for more sensory input, they might be toe walking to feed this need.
Hypotonia is a condition also known as low muscle tone that is often detected during infancy or birth.
This condition directly affects your child’s motor skills and muscular strength.
It’s common for a toddler diagnosed with hypotonia to continue to toe walk between the ages of 2 and 4.
This is because toe walking allows their knees and ankles to lock in place.
As a result, the muscles around their knees and ankles don’t have to work as hard and so this walking pattern seems easier for them.
An idiopathic cause of toe walking means that there is no known medical reason for this walking pattern.
In some cases, it may be that your child toe walks out of habit.
They may be able to stop if you simply ask them.
In others, they may need pediatric therapy interventions.
Why Is Toe Walking An Issue?
If your child has one of the above conditions, toe walking can be a symptom of it.
That alone is reason enough to seek support.
After all, early intervention pediatric therapy for most conditions tends to have better results than waiting until they’re older.
But beyond that, toe walking can cause longer term issues.
It can cause your child’s calf muscles to tighten, which will make it more difficult for them to learn a regular walking pattern, impair their ability to jump or squat, cause balance issues, and lead to postural abnormalities.
Due to poor alignment from toe walking, without treatment, it could lead to joint deterioration in the future which can cause back and leg pain as your child gets older.
It might even cause issues with social skills development as your child is teased and bullied for their unusual walking pattern.
But, the good news is that pediatric therapy for toe walking can help to correct the improper body mechanics.
Pediatric Therapy For Toe Walking
Depending on the reason your child toe walks, it can help them to either break their habit, or teach them how to walk with better form.
Your pediatric therapist will first evaluate your child to understand the underlying cause of their toe walking if possible.
Then, they would refer to their repertoire of techniques to determine which would be the best match for your child.
This repertoire includes active range of motion exercises, passive motion exercises, strength training, weight bearing activities, sensory integration strategies, and possibly fitting them for orthotics.
There are ways for your therapist to make this fun for your child and incorporate these exercises into a kind of play which can include your child’s favorite toys or games.
The goal is to make this fun for your child, so they look forward to each session while steadily improving their body mechanics.
Book Your Appointment With Little Feet Pediatric Therapy Today
If you notice that your child is still toe walking after 2 years old, consider taking them to Little Feet Pediatric Therapy for an evaluation.
If you notice any of these changes in their body, consider having your child evaluated by a pediatric therapist.
Book your appointment with Little Feet Pediatric Therapy today to schedule an evaluation.
► 3535 Randolph Rd, Charlotte, NC 28211
► 1331 H St NW Ste 200, Washington, DC 20005
► St. Louis, MO
► Raleigh, NC
Founded in 2019, Little Feet Therapy offers on site pediatric physical and occupational therapy treatments for children from 2 months to 18 years old with physical and developmental concerns. Our clinics focus on providing therapy in a child’s natural setting where your child is in familiar surroundings, it puts their mind at ease and helps them focus more on the work they’re doing with their pediatric therapist. Our therapists will work with your child at your home, at school, at daycare, or another place in the community where they feel most comfortable.