Toe-Walking In Children
Imagine a tiny, bright-eyed three-year-old child tip-toeing joyfully from room to room. You can’t help but be delighted at this adorable child and view the toe-walking as part of a sweet feminine package.
The identical behavior in an equally adorable little boy draws an indulgent smile and the conviction that he will soon grow out of it.
The same child walking on tippy toes at six or seven years old starts to raise concerns.
Children’s development tends to unfold in predictable ways. When we see unexpected behavior, particularly behavior which doesn’t go away, we need to take a deeper look. Is one thing developing more quickly or more slowly than another?
That is not to say that all unexpected behavior is a developmental issue. Rather, it serves as a signal to investigate further.
Toe-walking should be investigated for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is safety as well as the child’s enhanced ability to participate in fun activities such as dance or sports.
Why Do Some Children Walk on Tippy-toes?
As young children mature and develop skill in walking, their ability to know which muscles need to be stiff, and which muscles need to be loose and dynamic, improves.
The knee joint should be maintained fairly stiff and stable, but the ankle joint needs to be much more nimble and dynamic. As the child matures, successfully separating out the job of the knee from the job of the ankle, allows for improved function. The speed of walking picks up. Navigating stairs and uneven terrain with sloped surfaces improves.
While the knee is stable, the foot is dynamic. The stretch experience that occurs when the foot hits the ground is the result of a stretch to the small muscles located deep in the arches of the foot.
This stretch experience can sometimes be misinterpreted by the brain. When this problem happens, an inappropriate tightening of various groups of muscles through-out the lower legs result. The tight muscle groups cause the heel to lift and will shift the body weight to the front of the foot. Toe-walking feels very compelling and mandatory to these children.
Strategies to Reduce Toe-Walking
Walking in Reverse – Walking backward, walking up a hill and walking backward down a hill requires using the heel of the foot. Toe-walking while walking backward or up a hill is extremely difficult to maintain, so it’s a fun way to incorporate a playful way for the child’s brain to experience their foot. Research has shown that this may result in several minutes to several hours of normal heel-to-toe-walking following these strategies.
Exercise for the Small Ninja – For the older child, wall sits, crouching, lunging, partial squats, and kicking a soccer ball are also useful activities that incorporate high level coordination in the leg muscle that lends to foot and ankle control for walking.
Housekeeping – And finally, it may help to loosen the bed sheets at the base of the child’s bed. Try to prevent flattening out the ankle with heavy bedsheets that can hold the foot in a tippy-toe posture all night long.
For more information on children and toe-walking contact Cresswell Physical Therapy and Hand Rehabilitation. We have a physical therapy clinic located inside Sun Oaks Tennis and Fitness to help you with all your physical therapy needs. Most insurances accepted. Call us at 530-244-7686 or visit our website HYPERLINK “http://cresswellphysicaltherapy.com/” http://cresswellphysicaltherapy.com/ .