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Toe Walking: What Every Parent Should Know

Toe Walking: What Every Parent Should Know

When toddlers learn to walk, you may observe them walking on tip-toe, with their heels lifted off the ground. This is called toe walking, a normal part of development for many kids.

Most children outgrow toe walking as they become more confident, but some continue long after their peers have stopped. If you've noticed your child frequently walking on their toes past two years of age, the experts at Apple Podiatry Group can help.

During your appointment, our podiatrists examine your child for any indication of foot and ankle issues that contribute to or result from toe walking. An electromyogram (EMG) and other tests can rule out underlying muscle and nerve conditions.

Toe walking is typically not a cause for concern, and most kids outgrow it. As a parent, however, knowledge can bring peace of mind regarding your children's health. Here's what every parent should know about toe walking.

Can long-term toe walking impact my child’s development?

Walking on toes uses different muscles than a normal heel-to-toe stride. If your child's toe walking persists past age two, it could impact the development of their calf muscles and Achilles tendon. 

Long-term toe walking could cause your child's calf muscles and Achilles tendon to become tight and stiff, potentially leading to a limited range of motion in the ankles and feet. This could cause discomfort when walking, wearing certain shoes, or participating in athletics later in life.

Your child may naturally have a shorter Achilles tendon or calf muscle, making toe walking feel easier for them. If your child hasn't stopped toe walking on their own, our podiatrists may recommend easy calf muscle stretches that you can do together to encourage a normal heel-to-toe gait.

Can toe walking be an indication of something serious?

In a small percentage of cases, long-term toe walking could indicate an underlying medical problem, such as a neurological or musculoskeletal disorder. Medical conditions that affect the nerves and muscles can cause your child to develop an atypical gait, including muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, and spinal cord abnormalities.

When you bring your child to an appointment with Apple Podiatry Group due to toe walking concerns, our podiatrists discuss your child's walking patterns during development. We may ask when they have reached other developmental milestones or if they favor one side of the body when walking or playing.

If we suspect a medical condition such as a neurological disorder or muscle imbalance is behind your child's toe walking, tests and X-ray imaging can confirm a diagnosis or rule it out. Don't panic, though; it's highly unlikely that toe walking is anything other than a habit that your child will grow out of on their own or with minimal correction.

Apple Podiatry Group provides evening and weekend appointments to help support working parents manage their children's health. If you're concerned that your child hasn't started walking properly yet, call or click to make an appointment with us in Arlington, Fort Worth, or Flower Mound, Texas, today.

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