From Big Toe to Little Toe – Toe Walking

Posted On March 29, 2019

Our feet take us on so many amazing adventures. They help us walk, run, and reach the top of a cabinet that is just a little too high. Kids and adults alike move through life relying on the extraordinary abilities of our little feet. Since feet are so irreplaceable, it becomes essential to address toe walking as it will become a hindrance long term.

Toe Walking is Walking on the Toes

This little piggy walked on her heels. This little piggy walked on his toes. And this little piggy cried wee-wee-wee all the way home! As little piggy’s, walking performed on the toes is only “normal” when new walkers enter into an unfamiliar environment but only for about 10-15 steps. Contrary to the name, toe walking is not an ankle-foot problem. It is a whole-body problem expressed the most in the ankles and feet. Multiple joints are involved. Head, shoulders, knees, and toes, anyone?

Toe walking presents itself when a child uses the balls of their feet instead of a heel-to-toe motion when contacting the ground. If your kiddo is seen strolling in this fashion, it’s time to reach out to your local pediatrician and pediatric physical therapist. Hint: That’s us!

Toe Walking

Watch Out for Toe Walking

We know that we are not all built the same, but this also means that there are different reasons for toe walking to appear. Autism is often a concern, but there are many other common causes of the condition, such as weakness in the trunk muscles. Kiddos will often rise up on their toes to gain a false sense of security. Cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder, and sensory processing disorder (SPD) are among other causes. In SPD, toe walking can happen with over or under stimulation of the vestibular, proprioception, or tactile (touch) senses. With any scenario as a potential cause, it becomes important to pay attention to signs of toe walking.

We’re not playing footsie under the table when it comes down to it because toe walking is never outgrown. Oftentimes, it is masked by a child’s growing size and weight. They may lower themselves but never fully touch the ground heel-first. The truth is that toe walking will always have negative effects long term. Without addressing the toe-first movements, lower back pain will eventually result due to the shortening of the muscles on the back side of the body, which includes calves, hamstrings, and lower back. Imbalances can even involve stiffness around the ankles, calves, and hips too. Poor coordination and trunk control results as well, involving rotational movements and coordinating both sides of the body simultaneously. Parents may also show concern about the social implications of toe walking. Never neglect any movements that could harm healthy development.

Toe Walking

Best Foot Forward

Now it’s time for us to help kiddo’s put their best foot forward. Physical therapy is a noninvasive and an effective option when it comes to toe walking treatment. A physical therapist can offer gait training (improving how one walks), orthotics, as well as providing stretching, strengthening, and coordination exercises. Exercises can even be brought back home for continued and encouraged practice. Improvement is always an option for our precious feet and happy kids. This little piggy cried gleefully all the way home!

toe walking

Is your kiddo walking with toe-first motions? Reach out today.

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