Toe Walking in Children: Should Parents Be Worried?

Your child walks around on their toes — what’s the big deal, anyway? Toe walking is fairly common in children who are just learning to walk, but most kids naturally outgrow it. While you shouldn’t be worried if your child walks on their toes when learning to walk, you should start being concerned if they continue this walking pattern after three years old. Here’s what you should know about toe walking in children and how to navigate it:

Why Is My Child Toe Walking?

There are many reasons a child isn’t walking in the regular heel-to-toe pattern. Young children learning to walk will typically use toe walking because it helps them maintain their balance and stability. Some children stick to this walking pattern because they’ve grown comfortable with it, and it becomes a pattern.

Other kids walk on the balls of their feet because their Achilles tendons are too short or tight. If the Achilles tendon is too short, the child could have issues physically placing their heel on the floor. Children could opt to walk on their toes because their calf muscles, hip flexors, and hamstrings are too tight. Hypermobile children may also toe walk because they deem it more comfortable.

Toe walking has been linked to cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and autism. It’s important to note that if your child is toe walking, that doesn’t necessarily mean there are underlying conditions!

What is Idiopathic Toe Walking?

Idiopathic toe walking (ITW) is when children over the age of three continue to walk on the balls of their feet — affecting approximately 7-24% of children. The word idiopathic means that the exact cause of the toe walking is unknown. Experts don’t exactly know why children with no underlying disorders habitually walk on their toes.

Does Toe Walking Negatively Affect My Child?

If your child continues walking on their toes after turning three, they have a higher likelihood of experiencing undesirable side effects. Since the natural walking pattern for humans is heel-to-toe, the unusual emphasis on the toes puts unnecessary stress on other areas of the body.

Every parent wants their young child to grow up healthy. Here’s the issue with toe walking: unnatural tension is placed on the hips, knees, and lower back. This abnormal walking pattern can cause improper bone growth or create ligament issues as kids age.

If children continue to toe walk, they’ll begin experiencing tightness in the muscles supporting their hips and knees. The body is a complex interconnected system that requires balance to work optimally — putting unnecessary pressure on the hips and back can further throw off the child’s gait. The child will suffer hip stability issues and other related discomforts as they continue to grow.

How Can I Get My Child to Stop Toe Walking?

Children tend to toe walk because they want to feel more stable — whether it’s because they have tight muscles, hypermobility, or another underlying reason. If you’re reading this blog post, you’ve already taken the first step to getting your child the proper help they need to stop toe-walking.

You should begin helping your child by reminding them to focus on walking in a heel-toe pattern whenever possible. It’s essential to keep it in the forefront of their mind! If you want to work with your child at home, you should focus on stretching their muscles that may be affecting their gait.

We have a blog post specifically dedicated to various activities that will help your child stop toe-walking. You can find it here: (insert link to toe walking activities blog post).

Concerned or have questions? Connect with our physio team today!

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Roxanne Jason


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