As young children grow and develop, they typically go through several phases of ambulation. Once infants have built up enough strength and coordination to move their arms and legs, they usually want to use this new ability to move from one place to another. Most children begin by scooting or crawling before they begin to walk upright. Once children begin to walk on their own, they also go through phases in walking. New walkers tend to have their legs wide to provide a steady base. They also walk with their arms outstretched to assist in balance. As children progress in walking, one phase many go through is that of toe walking.
Toe walker occurs when a child walks on their toes or balls of their feet during ambulation. This is usually a normal phase of walking, and most children stop walking on their toes around 2 years of age. Occasionally some children may persist in walking on their toes past their 2nd birthday. Usually this is simply out of habit, but occasionally this can be associated with another biomechanical or medical condition.
One possible reason that a child may be walking on their toes is that their Achilles tendon is too short. This condition, which is termed equinus, is common in adults, but is probably less common in children whose ligaments and tendons tend to be more flexible. Underlying conditions which could lead to equinus include cerebral palsy and other muscular or neurological disorders.
So how are you as a parent to know whether your childs toe walking is normal or a sign of a more serious problem? One thing to look for is to see if there are other muscular or neurological issues, such as problems with stiff muscles or a lack of muscle coordination. These signs may indicate that a check-up with your doctor is in order. At Foot and Ankle Associates, we specialize in getting our patients back on their feet and walking, whether they are just learning how to walk or have been walking for many years. With the knowledge and training to assist you with any questions you have about your child and their walking, we look forward to meeting you and taking part in the medical care of your family. Please call our office to schedule an appointment or use the convenient “Request an Appointment” button on our home page.