Why does my child walk on their toes? Is this normal? Will they grow out of it? What happens if they don’t? These are questions we hear all the time as pediatric therapists. We are so grateful to be asked, because this is a really important topic. Babies go through many changes as they learn to move from tummy time to sitting to crawling to taking their first steps. There are even more changes in the way that they walk from those first steps before they go to school. A child should use a “typical” walking pattern by the time they are 18 months old. A typical pattern includes the heel being first to touch the ground and arms swinging loosely by their side.
Is it important to walk with a “typical” pattern? Yes. While not everyone has to look the exact same, the essentials are important. Atypical patterns can result in changes to the muscles and joints that are uncomfortable or even painful. It can also lead to challenges with typical gross motor skills such as jumping, hopping, standing on one foot, and walking on the stairs. It does look different from the way “other” kids walk, and this is why most people seek out care.
Why do children toe-walk? There is not one answer to this question. There can be a variety of reasons and care can vary widely between the types of clinicians (i.e. PT, OT, MD, etc.) who provide help. There can be a medical root cause or considered idiopathic, meaning an unknown cause. It is really important to determine if there is a medical basis such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, etc. instead of idiopathic because the treatment approaches are different. What works for someone with idiopathic toe walking may actually cause challenges with someone who has a medical basis. What should you do if you feel your child is toe walking and you would like to get help? We recommend first starting with a pediatric physical medicine doctor, also known as a physiatrist.
Please see this link to understand more about WHAT IS A PEDIATRIC PHYSIATRIST – Reach Pediatric Rehab (reachpedsrehab.com).
We enjoy working with Dr. Pham at Reach Pediatric Rehab and created a combined Toe Walking Evaluation clinic. At this clinic you have a combined evaluation visit with the doctor and PT where a comprehensive treatment plan is created. This plan may include medical tests, braces or shoe support, OT, and/or PT to help your child achieve the best outcome. We also recommend starting as soon as possible if your child is 18 months or older. The kids don’t typically “grow out of it”, so starting sooner than later leads to better outcomes. There are many things that can be done to help your child! For more information on our Toe Walking Clinic with Dr. Kelly Pham, please follow this link: TOE WALKING – Reach Pediatric Rehab (reachpedsrehab.com)