Overview

    Walking on the toes or the balls of the feet, also known as toe walking, is fairly common in children who are just beginning to walk. Most children outgrow it.

    Kids who continue toe walking beyond the toddler years often do so out of habit. As long as your child is growing and developing normally, toe walking is unlikely to be a cause for concern.

    Toe walking sometimes can result from certain conditions, including cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and autism spectrum disorder.

    Toe walking is walking on the toes or the ball of the foot.

    When to see a doctor

    If your child is still toe walking after age 2, talk to your doctor about it. Make an appointment sooner if your child also has tight leg muscles, stiffness in the Achilles tendon or a lack of muscle coordination.

    Causes

    Typically, toe walking is a habit that develops when a child learns to walk. In a few cases, toe walking is caused by an underlying condition, such as:

    • A short Achilles tendon. This tendon links the lower leg muscles to the back of the heel bone. If it's too short, it can prevent the heel from touching the ground.
    • Cerebral palsy. Toe walking can be caused by a disorder of movement, muscle tone or posture caused by injury or abnormal development in the parts of the immature brain that control muscle function.
    • Muscular dystrophy. Toe walking sometimes occurs in this genetic disease in which muscle fibers are unusually prone to damage and weaken over time. This diagnosis might be more likely if your child initially walked normally before starting to toe walk.
    • Autism. Toe walking has been linked to autism spectrum disorders, which affect a child's ability to communicate and interact with others.

    Risk factors

    Toe walking out of habit, also known as idiopathic toe walking, sometimes runs in families.

    Complications

    Persistent toe walking can increase a child's risk of falling. It can also result in a social stigma.

    March 23, 2022

    1. Haynes KB, et al. Toe walking: A neurological perspective after referral from pediatric orthopaedic surgeons. Journal of Pediatric Orthpaedics. In press. Accessed Jan. 22, 2018.
    2. Van Kuijk AAA, et al. Treatment of idiopathic toe walking: A systematic review of the literature. Journal of Rehabilitative Medicine. 2014;46:945.
    3. Szopa A, et al. Effect of a nonsurgical treatment program on the gait pattern of idiopathic toe walking: A case report. Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management. 2016;12:139.
    4. Sätilä H, et al. Does botulinum toxin A treatment enhance the walking pattern in idiopathic toe-walking? Neuropediatrics. 2016;47:162.
    5. Williams CM, et al. Do external stimuli impact the gait of children with idiopathic toe walking? A study protocol for a within-subject randomised control trial. BMJ Open. http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/3/3/e002389. Jan. 22, 2018.

    Related

    Associated Procedures

    What happens if you walk on the balls of your feet?
    When you walk on the balls of your feet, you lose about 16 to 17 percent more energy due to these "collision forces" than you do if you walk heel-first. Toe-walking requires activation of certain calf muscles that don't need to be used in heel-first walking, as your weight is directly supported by your heel. more
    How do you stop dragging your feet when you walk?
    Although treatments for foot drop vary depending on the source of the problem, typically it is treated with braces or splints and orthotic shoe inserts to provide support, as well as physical therapy exercises to strengthen muscles and help with range of motion. more
    Why do my feet burn on the bottom when I walk?
    The most common of these is athlete's foot, an infection of the skin caused by fungus. Peripheral artery disease (PAD) also commonly causes burning feet. The poor circulation of blood to the feet may frequently cause pain, tingling, and burning feet, especially while walking. more
    Can you walk with neuropathy in your feet?
    The pain and tingling that comes with peripheral neuropathy can have an impact on almost every part of your life. It can especially make it difficult to walk and exercise because it can affect your balance. more
    What is the correct way to walk on your feet?
    Proper Walking Step Motion Strike the ground first with your heel. Roll through the step from heel to toe. Push off with your toes. Bring the back leg forward to strike again with the heel. more
    Where is the ball of your feet?
    The balls of the feet are the slightly padded areas under the foot just further down from the toes. This area contains a number of structures that can develop symptoms. There is a lot of pressure applied to these areas during activity, such as when walking or running. more
    Why do my feet crunch when I walk?
    As we walk cracking sounds may be heard, but this most likely occurs when the foot is moved beyond its normal range of motion. It is more common to hear cracking when you stretch or roll your foot. Pops and cracks are normal in this case because the motions require the bones and ligaments to stretch. more
    How can I stop walking on the balls of my feet?
    How to stop toe walking
    1. Wearing special leg casts that can help to stretch muscles and tendons in the calves if it is identified that they are tight.
    2. A special brace known as an ankle-foot orthosis (AFO) can help to stretch the muscles and tendons in the ankles.
    more
    Why does my dog bite my feet when I walk?
    Biting feet is emulating the herding behavior they were initially bred for. It can also be due to puppy teething, or for the dog to assert authority over you. more
    Should I wash dog feet after walk?
    Whether it's rainy, snowy, or dusty outside, we have to take our dogs for walks. In winter, this might mean the risk of irritation from salted sidewalks, so cleaning up their paws properly after you return from a walk is a must. more
    How do I stop my feet from swelling when I walk?
    To reduce the swelling from a foot or ankle injury, rest to avoid walking on the injured ankle or foot, use ice packs, wrap the foot or ankle with compression bandage, and elevate the foot on a stool or pillow. If swelling and pain is severe or doesn't improve with home treatment, see your doctor. more

    Source: www.mayoclinic.org

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