Every milestone of our little one is precious to us. Similarly, walking is a great milestone that toddlers achieve between 12 to 15 months. But recently, if you have started noticing that your little one has a habit of walking on his toes. Toe walking is very common while learning to walk, and it stays for 2 years. But after he is two years old and yet he is walking on his toes, you should start worrying. Here you will find everything you need to know about toe walking; its signs, causes, and treatments.
Before reaching the age of three, most kids walk on their toes, especially when they learn to walk. But after the age of three, if your child does not quit the habit of walking on his toes, then it’s something to worry about. Toe walking is usually due to the history of toe walking in the family. Some other medical reasons why it may happen are cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, short Achilles tendon, and autism. But nothing to worry about this problem can be easily treated by a few therapies, exercise, and castings. However, if your child turns five and his habit of toe walking does not go away despite doing all the exercises and therapies, then you have no option but to opt for surgery in which the doctor will increase the length of his Achilles tendon.
What is toe walking?
Toe walking is simply a walking pattern in which your toddler will walk on his toes without placing his heels on the ground. This is a habit that children learn while they are in the early stages of walking.
This habit is considered normal for 2 to 3 years. However, if this habit stays beyond this age, it means that your little one is habitual of walking on toes or is facing some other problems.
What are the causes of toe walking?
There could be one of many reasons why your child is toe walking, as not a single research specifically points to one particular point or reason. Some children know how to walk properly with their heels on the ground, but they prefer to walk on their toes. This condition is known as idiopathic toe walking.
Doctors can have a hard time identifying if it’s idiopathic toe walking or some other medical problem due to which they are walking on their toes. Some of the medical conditions that can cause toe walking in your toddlers are:
There are many kinds of cerebral palsy that causes trouble in standing and walking. A toddler with spastic cerebral palsy walks unsteadily as this condition affects his muscle tone, coordination, and posture.
This condition is known to stiffen the muscles around the feet, due to which your child will walk on his toes. In fact, brain hemorrhage causes cerebral palsy in many infants and leads to a complication with walking, resulting in toddlers walking on their toes.
It is a genetic problem that makes the muscle fibers prone to damage and gets weak over time. Toe walking is one of the side effects of muscular dystrophy
A short Achilles tendon:
Achilles tendon is known to link the lower leg muscle to the back of the heel bone.
If your toddler walks on his heel, then there is a possibility that his Achilles tendon is too short, hence preventing the heel from touching the ground.
Some researches indicate that autism spectrum disorder causes toe walking and affects your child’s ability to communicate and interact with others.
What complications can your toddler face if he’s toe walking?
Toe walking is very common in children till age 3. The chances of developing idiopathic toe walking are higher in families who have a history of toe walking in children. It’s genetics!
However, it is dangerous if your toddler is constantly walking on toes as it damages joints and muscles. Toe walking also increases the chances of falling and stumbling too
Can you diagnose toe walking in your toddler?
If your little one is constantly walking on his toes and it’s worrying you, then talk to your pediatrician to find out what problem he might be facing. The doctor will perform a physical examination by asking your child to walk so he can analyze his walking pattern.
In some cases, the doctor may perform gait analysis or EMG; a needle is inserted into the affected muscle. The electrode connected to the thin needle measures the electrical activity during an EMG.
Your doctor will never recommend a neurological exam or development evaluation unless he detects developmental delays, autism, or cerebral palsy.
How to treat your toddler who is walking on his toes?
After diagnosing the reason why your toddler is walking on his toes you need to start the treatment to prevent the damage from increasing. Below are some of the non-surgical and surgical treatments:
The short Achilles tendon can be rectified by performing gentle stretching of the leg and foot muscle.
The ankle-foot orthosis is a plastic belt that goes to the back of the leg. This belt helps to hold the foot at 90-degrees and stretches the muscles and tendons in the ankle.
It can be worn throughout the day and night; however, remove it while your child is showering or exercising.
To provide your child with a better ankle movement, plaster or fiberglass casting is applied that helps in stretching tendons. As tendon length and stretching improves, the casting has to be changed; you can not remove it when you want to.
If you know that your child has an idiopathic toe walking problem, then the best treatment is exercise! Not only this, but children with Achilles tendons also gain a lot of improvement by exercising and stretching.
There are several kinds of exercises that enable muscles to stretch in a better way. Some of the exercises that your toddler can perform are Achilles tendon stretch, calf stretch, and sit to stand exercise.
Botox injection will loosen up the tight muscles and will weaken the overactive ones. These injections will help your child in stretching his muscles and hence feet easily.
If the doctor notices that your child has very tight muscles that can not be weakened or loosen up using a cast, ankle-foot orthosis, or botox injections, then your pediatrician would recommend surgery for your little one.
In this surgery, the doctor will increase the length of the Achilles tendon. And don’t worry, it is a quick surgery, and your little darling won’t be required to spend a single night in the hospital. After the surgery, the doctor would recommend that your child wears a cast for four to six weeks and therapy later on.
I never knew toe walking could be such a thing I need to worry about. Both my kids are below the age of three and walk on their toes. Well, for now, I am not worrying about anything with the hope that with time their habit of toe walking will fade away.
In the same manner, if your little one is toe walking and below the age of three, then do not worry about anything as it is just a phase that will fade away with time. On the other hand, if your child is above the age of three and is still toe walking, then make him do some exercises, wear casting, ankle-foot orthosis. Despite doing everything, if your little one still walks on his toe, then your doctor will recommend you to consider surgery.
Share your experience of what your toddler did and the things you did for treating this problem in the comment section below. Also, feel free to ask any questions.