When your young child is just learning to stand or walk, you may see them occasionally go up on their tip-toes for a brief moment, then relax back down. This is typical, and is often used to allow for stability with newly acquired skills. The overall use of this; however, should progressively decrease over time. An increase in use of this strategy and/or the tendency to remain high up on the toes all the time or the majority of the time is not considered typical in the progression of walking.
Toe walking can begin for a number of reasons, some of which include:
- Children who walk on their toes often have a “bounce” in their step, this bounce provides constant repetitive sensory or vestibular input
- On the other hand, children who are are sensitive to sensory input may be avoiding constant and repetitive input on their heels that comes with a typical walking pattern
- A weak core and hip musculature is often associated with children who walk on their toes, strengthening these areas of the body can often help to normalize their walking pattern
- Sometimes use of vision can play a role in toe-walking, particularly if a child is not using their visual fields equally and appropriately
Long term toe-walking can lead to a number of challenges including structural changes of the foot, muscle contractures, and ongoing pain. While some cases of toe-walking will spontaneously resolve as the child gets older, it is best to seek intervention sooner rather than later in order to determine to root cause of this habit and to limit these challenges from occurring.
If your child frequently or always walks on their toes, they may benefit from a physical therapy evaluation to help determine the reason behind the toe walking and provide early intervention methods before structural changes start to occur.
We also have an informational handout on Toe Walking!