Walking on toes or the balls of the feet is common in kids who have just started to walk. Toe walking is usually outgrown in many children and children who still continue doing so just do it due to habit. As long as your child is healthy and growing normally, toe walking is not a problem at all.
Toe walking may occasionally result from muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy or other diseases of the muscles or nerves. Autistic children may also walk on their toes; however, in most cases this is unlikely.
Signs and symptoms
- Walking on the toes or the balls of the feet.
When to seek medical attention
During your child’s upcoming checkup, make sure you mention toe walking to your doctor. It is ideal to make a sooner appointment if toe walking accompanies symptoms such as stiff leg muscles or reduced muscle coordination.
Usually toe walking is a child’s habit as he or she learns how to walk and grows and develops. Occasionally, toe walking may be caused by an underlying medical condition requiring prompt treatment, such as:
- A short Achilles tendon. The Achilles tendon joins the leg muscles at the back of the heel bone. if the Achilles tendon is shorter than normal, it may prevent the child’s heel from touching the ground, thus enabling him or her to walk on toes
- Cerebral palsy. This is a disorder associated with movement, posture or muscle tone resulting from abnormal development of the brain or injury.
- Muscle dystrophy. This is a genetic disease which causes the muscle fibers to become vulnerable to damage, thereby, leading to progressive muscle weakness. Your child will most likely have to be diagnosed if he or she walked normally before walking on toes.
- Autism. Some experts also link toe walking with autism which affects a person’s ability to interact and communicate with other people
For children who are toe walking, treatment is not required because the child will most probably outgrow it. During regular checkups, your child’s walking or gait will be simply monitored and diagnosed to ensure that there is no cause for concern.
If toe walking occurs due to a physical condition, treatment options may include the following:
- Physical therapy. This includes performing subtle stretching exercises of the leg and foot muscles to improve gait
- Splints and leg braces. these may help encourage proper gait
- Surgery. If conservative or nonsurgical treatment methods are ineffective in improving gait, your may be referred to a surgeon or specialist in order to rectify the underlying problem, such as lengthening the short tendons or muscles at the back of the leg.
In case, other conditions such as autism or cerebral palsy contribute to toe walking, treatment will focus on these conditions.