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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Toe walking

Toe walking is where a child’s heel makes little or no contact with the floor when they are standing or walking.

Toe walking can be constant or come and go. It is relatively common when first learning to walk. But most tamariki (children) quickly grow out of it.

If toe walking continues after the age of 2, it might be because of a medical condition. You should ask your general practice team to check it.

Symptoms of toe walking

Occasionally, the tamaiti (child) may also:

Causes of toe walking

We do not know the exact cause of toe walking. But the following can cause toe walking in some tamariki.

In rare cases, toe walking can be due to underlying causes. These include congenital tightness of muscle. Also, neurological or development issues and autistic spectrum disorders. Your general practice team will tell you if they suspect other causes.

Diagnosing toe walking

If your child’s toe walking continues after they turn 2, you should take them to see your general practice team. You should also see your general practice team if you have any other concerns about their walking.

Your general practice team will discuss your child’s walking, their general development and their family history. They will also examine your tamaiti and watch them walking.

Treating toe walking

If there are no serious underlying problems, there are several treatments options:

Supportive footwear

Supportive, well fastened footwear can help your tamaiti maintain a good foot position. It can also help them improve their walking pattern. Boots that come up over the ankle are often good. For example, Converse or lace-up boots.

Try to prevent them walking long distances in unsupportive shoes such as jandals or sliders.

Going for long walks in stiff boots such as walking boots or gumboots can be helpful. These types of footwear make it very difficult to walk on your toes.

Physiotherapy

There are specific exercises and activities to help break the habit of toe walking. They aim to improve strength and balance and help teach your tamaiti how to walk properly. See Exercises for toe walking for details.

Other options

If supportive footwear and physiotherapy do not solve the problem, there are other options for more serious cases:

If your tamaiti has casting or surgery, they also usually need physiotherapy. This is to help them to learn to walk heel first.

Helping your child with toe walking

There are some simple fun activities and games you can do with your tamaiti to help them walk in a more usual way.

Fun activities

Games

On the next page: Exercises for toe walking

Written by Paediatric Outpatients Musculoskeletal Physiotherapists, Te Whatu Ora Waitaha. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Page created December 2023.

Sources

Page reference: 1319338

Review key: HICLF-132158