Toe Walking is seen in children who walk on the balls of their feet without letting their heels hit the ground. There are different types of toe walking depending on the cause, but regardless of the cause, prolonged cases can lead to tight Achilles’ tendons, foot, ankle, and leg dysfunction.
Idiopathic (habitual or behavioral) toe walking occurs when the child walks on the toes of both feet for reasons unknown to their doctor. The child may be otherwise healthy and developing well and even walk with heel contact when wearing shoes. Toe walking is normally much more noticeable when the child walks barefoot or on surfaces with tactile sensations (carpet, grass, cold tile, or new environment).
It is difficult to identify the reason for idiopathic toe walking. However, these factors may contribute:
Physical therapy corrects and promotes proper walking mechanics to eliminate toe walking and subsequent complications. Through stretching and strengthening of specific muscle groups, physical therapists decrease Achilles tightness and strengthen the involved musculature of the foot, ankle and leg, to allow for improved movement. Physical therapists can also work to appropriately teach the nervous system and sensory system to adapt to new information to decrease the need to toe walk. Education is also provided to prolong the effects of physical therapy so parents and their children can avoid future dysfunction and need for surgery.