Toddler Toe Walking: Is It Normal?

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If you are a parent, chances are you can immediately recount the age at which your toddler began walking. You were probably happy when your tot took off running all over the place and may not have noticed he was toe walking, which is walking on the toes or on the balls of the feet. Some toe walking is normal, but if your child consistently walks on his toes after age two, you need to have him checked for a possible medical condition.

Normal Toe Walking

Babies getting ready to walk frequently do so on the tips of their toes or the balls of their feet. They may continue to walk this way off and on up to age two. Often, it is just a habit or, in some cases, toddlers mimicking women wearing heels. In any event, if your child has no other symptoms before age two, you do not need to worry. If he toe walks after age two or has other problems in conjunction with toe walking, such as stiff muscles or extreme awkwardness, you will need to consult a doctor

Medical Conditions

Medical conditions associated with toe walking include the following:

  • Cerebral palsy: A condition that affects muscle function and causes problems with muscle tone, posture, and movement. Physical therapy will most likely be prescribed with this diagnosis.
  • Muscular dystrophy: A genetic disease that causes muscles to weaken over time. Muscular dystrophy is more likely the cause if your child walked  normally at first and then began to toe walk. No cure exists for muscular dystrophy, but medication and physical therapy can slow the disease's development. 
  • A short Achilles tendon: A condition where the tendon that connects the lower leg muscles to the heel bone is too short. This occurrence can prevent the heel from touching the ground. This problem can be repaired by an orthopedic surgeon, most commonly through a procedure called z-plasty lengthening. The surgeon makes a z-shaped incision and stretches the tendon to the desired length. 
  • Idiopathic toe walking: A condition with no known cause that usually resolves itself over time. Your child may simply be toe walking out of habit. 

Usually, toe walking is nothing to worry about, but if it is accompanied by other symptoms or lingers past age two, you should schedule an appointment with a doctor or orthopaedic doctor. In most cases, nothing will be physically wrong, but if a medical condition does exist, early treatment can make a huge difference in the life of your child.