We are often asked about unusual walking habits of our younger patients. “What does it mean if…?”, “Is it a problem that…?”. We always take these questions seriously because every child develops differently, and sometime these questions will highlight an underlying or persistent issue.
So, what about toe walking? Is it actually a problem if your child is a toe walker? Typically, the heel-toe pattern of walking develops by 24-42 months of age, and it is not unusual to see a 12-month-old only toe walking. (Morozova, 2017) The question becomes more relevant the older the child gets. Persistent toe walking beyond the age of 3 years can be a sign of structural abnormalities, or even conditions such as cerebral palsy. (Ruzbarsky, 2016)
Now you may be asking, what can be done? Well, it depends on what is causing the toe walking in the first place, as well as the age of the child. If it is truly idiopathic (no known cause), then manual therapy and stretching may well be the answer. In more severe cases, casting and surgery may be needed. (Ruzbarsky, 2016)
The take home message; toe walking is considered normal up to the age of 12 months and it would be expected to gradually decrease and disappear by the age of 3. It can be seen in up to 2% of normally developing children at the age of 5 ½ years. (Ruzbarsky, 2016)
If you or someone close to you has a habit of toe walking, then we encourage you to ask questions about it.
Morozova, O. M., Chang, T. F., & Brown, M. E. (2017). Toe walking: when do we need to worry?. Current problems in pediatric and adolescent health care, 47(7), 156-160.
Ruzbarsky, J. J., Scher, D., & Dodwell, E. (2016). Toe walking: causes, epidemiology, assessment, and treatment. Current opinion in pediatrics, 28(1), 40-46.
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