Why is Toe Walking Bad?

Idiopathic toe walking is a type of walking pattern that occurs when children walk on their tip-toes instead of using the more “typical” heel first pattern. Idiopathic is a term that refers to the fact that this toe walking occurs spontaneously, usually out of habit, and is not due to another medical cause. blog-toe-walking-main-landscape

A non-idiopathic cause may be cerebral palsy, autism, sensory processing disorder, muscular dystrophy or brain injury. As children learn to walk, some toe walking is to be expected. When this becomes a strong habit that they do not grow out of, or the predominant pattern as they are new walkers, then several issues can arise.

The following are negative consequences of toe walking:

  • Tight ankles or contractures can develop
  • Poor balance reactions, frequent falling
  • Muscle imbalances “up the chain” meaning decreased hip or core strength due to the different postural alignment
  • Difficulty with body mechanics including squatting or performing stairs, secondary to tight calve muscles
  • Inability to stand with heels flat on the ground
  • Pain in ankles, knees or hips due to faulty mechanics
  • Surgery, casting, night splinting or daily bracing may be necessary

While some toe walking should not be alarming, the earlier you intervene, the better. Discuss this with your pediatrician or see a physical therapist who can provide early strategies to stop the cascade of effects that can be seen later.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!


Lauren Beeker

Lauren Beeker

Lauren Beeker is a Physical Therapist who loves working with children of all abilities and their families! She earned her Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science and Minor in Education at Saint Louis University, where she also earned her Doctorate of Physical Therapy. Following six wonderful years in St. Louis Lauren relocated to Seattle where she spent over 2 years gaining wonderful pediatric experience in an outpatient pediatric clinic setting and participating in a research project at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Lauren has returned to the Midwest to be closer to family in Indianapolis and found North Shore Pediatric Therapy! Lauren has experience working with children with a variety of abilities and ages including but not limited to children with the following: torticollis and/or plagiocephaly, developmental delay, cerebral palsy, seizure disorders, genetic disorders, autism spectrum disorder, sensory processing disorder, orthopedic conditions/pain, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, post-inpatient rehabilitation for cancer treatment, burns, and traumatic brain injury.

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