Toe walking, commonly referred to as “walking on tippy toes” by parents, is a condition to describe children who walk without heels touching the ground. Toe walking is a form of gait disorder and is associated with several underlying neurological or muscular conditions, such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and autism. If left untreated, toe walking can lead to other injuries and conditions to the lower limb.
Toe walking is estimated to affect 5 in every 100 children with no underlying conditions, 2 in every 10 children with autism spectrum disorder, and up to 4 in 10 children with underlying neuromuscular conditions. Toe walking, if within the normal development phase, can be considered normal and may resolve with proper medical guidance and supervision. Most children will develop a normal heel-to-toe gait pattern around the age of 2 onwards.
Toe walking is classified into 3 different types, namely developmental toe walking, idiopathic toe walking or associated with underlying conditions. A trained Podiatrist will be able to differentiate the types of toe walking conditions, and this is the key to providing the right form of treatment.
Causes of Toe Walking include:
Toe walking is a visible gait disorder and children with the condition will walk on their tippy toes.
Other signs and symptoms include:
Differentiating the type of toe walking is the key to providing the right treatment. Treatment for toe walking usually involves a process of restricting movement and retraining movement. In some cases, the Podiatrist may refer the child for further investigation to rule out any underlying neurological or neuromuscular conditions.