Toe walking is actually fairly common, and in most cases a part of typical development, especially when children are first learning to walk. Most children begin to walk with a “heel first” pattern after 2 years old. However, sometimes kids seem to be constantly on their tippy toes. There could be a few reasons why children continue to toe walk:
1. Tight Calf Muscles
Our calf muscles help us walk, run, jump, and balance. In some children, and in most cases of toe walkers, tightness in these muscles are what cause the persistence in the “tippy toe” walking pattern.
2. Decreased Ankle Strength
Now this usually goes hand in hand with reason #1. Most likely, if a child is on their toes, it usually means they don’t have enough strength or flexibility to keep their feet flat.
3. Sensory Impairments
If you have ever stepped on a LEGO or any other tiny toy, you know how painful it can be. Some children actually feel this painful sensation when stepping on flat ground which often leads to toe walking. It is commonly due to the child having tactile sensitivity, in other words the child is perceiving the floor as painful.
In some cases, toe walking can resolve on its own with time. Sometimes it can lead to balance issues, tripping, and difficulty with gross motor skills and everyday tasks. Physical therapy can help address flexibility, strength, and balance while occupational therapy can help address any sensory needs.
Marisa Asta is a Physical Therapist at the Manalapan and Edison Sunshine Centers. She graduated with her doctorate from Ithaca College in 2019 and has been working in pediatrics ever since. Marisa found her passion for working with children with Autism, and other developmental conditions, while working at a specialized pre-school for children with disabilities. She also has experience in treating various orthopedic and neurological conditions in children of all ages, as well as adults, in various settings.