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Walking on Tiptoes
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Walking on Tiptoes
My son has been a ''toewalker'' since he started walking. His
pediatrician told us not to worry but he has never transitioned
out of this way of walking and now I am getting more
concerned. I have read that this can cause problems as an
adult and also once kids get a bit older they tend to get
teased a lot. A lot of information I have read has also talked
about surgery, something I want to totally avoid. We are
working on talking with my 3 & 1/2 year old son and reminding
him to walk on his heels instead of his toes and he will do
this but rapidly reverts back to ''his normal'' way of walking on
his toes. If any parents have experience with this condition
and advice on how they transitioned the behavior, please do let
Has your pediatrician evaluated him for causes of the toe-
walking, and felt there was no concern? Or did he/she dismiss
discusses some factors. Also, this newsletter has some archives
about the same issue (see below)
I'm assuming by ''toe walking'' you mean walking up on the balls of
the foot rather than the full foot. If this is correct, then I
was a toe walker and so is my mom. We both have short achilles
tendons which causes us to walk on the balls of our feet,
especially in the morning. Mine have stretched out over the
years so I only toe walk in the morning before my tendons have
stretched out. My mom's a bit worse than me as she never did a
lot of athletics so didn't stretch them out as much. But neither
of us have had any problems with our feet or our backs or any
other structural problem that might be attributed to this. I
have heard of people getting surgery for it but I guess it
depends on the severity of the toe walking. Try having your
child stand with the balls of his feet on the edge of a step
(facing up-stairs) and drop his heels down as far as they can go.
This is the stretch I did for years to try to lengthen my
achilles and it seems to have worked for the most part. Still,
I'm more comfortable in shoes with a slight heel than in pure flats.
Lifelong Toe Walker
I just wanted to let you know that there is nothing to worry
about. My son, now 11.5, has been walking on his toes since he
began walking at 12 months. He has never been teased by friends
or classmates, & does not have any physical problems because of
it. In fact, he has the most gorgeously defined muscular calves
that I have seen on a child! That in my opinion is not a bad
Toe Walking mom
I don't have any experience with this as a parent, but I was a
toe-walker when I was young (preschool age). I remember always
walking on my tippy toes when barefoot, and my parents always
thought it was weird. I think it was just more comfortable for
me (less likely to step on something that would hurt my feet if
only part of my foot touched the ground???? Not sure.....).
Anyway, I grew out of it on my own, I think by grade school. My
gut feeling is not to worry. He'll grow out of it.
Does anyone have any personal experience with idiopathic toe
walking, aka we don't know why your son walks on his toes? I'm
considering surgery for my son to release his tendons so he
won't walk on his toes. He walks on his toes most of the time.
And all the time barefoot. The doc's at Children's
Hospital,Oakland , Pediatric Othropedics are recommending
surgery. He's almost 6 yrs. old, has walked on his toes since
he was two. He can walk heel to toe sometimes, but is more
comfortable walking on his toes. He's otherwise healthy,
coordinated and does amazing well balance wise. We've ruled out
CP and other syndroms. I hear this happens frequently as does
the surgery. Love to hear anyone elses experiences. Many
a concerned mama
One thing Judith Bluestone mentions in her work is that tiptoe walking suggests intestinal irritation, because the meridian runs through the foot. While this may seem far fetched, perhaps it may help you locate a less dramatic intervention than
the suggested surgery. Judith's organization is The HANDLE Institute
Dear Concerned Mama,
This may sound strange, but how well does your child digest his food? It is possible the toe walking is related to a digestive problem. Many times when food is not fully chewed (sometimes because it is very loud to chew and quieter to just swallow) the enzymes needed for digestion are not released properly, food is not fully digested, intestines get backed up, etc. The heels of the foot have a lot of reflexology points for the digestive system, intestines, etc. In my experience, children who toe walk are often doing so to avoid the pain of putting the foot down and stimulating those painful points. Actually pretty smart of them!
Feel free to email me if this sounds plausible and we can talk more about it.
Good luck, Sindy
I've never heard of this so I can't give any real specific advice, but as a massage therapist, I've done lots of rehab on various surgeries and some of them completely unnecessary.
I'm not saying your son's surgery isn't necessary, but PLEASE check out every possible avenue before consenting to cutting tendons. If they don't know why he does it, how can they say surgery is the helpful approach?
Have you spoken to pediatric podiatrists? Osteopaths? Physical Therapists? Pediatric Chiropractors? Try going out of the medical realm.
Please, NO SURGERY unless you know that it is the only helpful avenue.
Does it hurt him to walk heel to toe? It's possible that from toe walking his leg muscles are so tight that it now may be painful or uncomfortable to stretch and use them as in heel/toe walking. That's my 2 cents. I'd be interested to hear the outcome if you care to e-mail me. Meanwhile, good luck.
Both my sons walk on their toes, and always have. The toe-walking is more pronounced in the younger son, but both do it. After evaluation of our younger son by a developmental pediatrician (for other reasons), we learned that this is typically an issue of brain wiring. The area of the brain responsible for language also tends to dictate toe walking and many kids with unusual language patterns walk on their toes. Many autistic/Aspergers kids walk on their toes too. Not a causal relationship, but a reflection of the proximity of communication centers to walking centers of the brain. Neither of our sons has autism or Asperger's, though both are gifted, have some social issues, and the younger one's language is unusual (i.e., extremely articulate, almost poetic). We have concluded that we just make oddly wired kids.
We did nothing about our older son's toe walking, and little about the younger son's. We have worked on exercises to assure that his achilles tendon does not get short, and have occasionally tried to find high-top shoes than force the heels down some. (A good idea but hard to do now that high tops are out of style.) The older son is 14 now, and toe walking is no issue for him at all. The younger one is 10, and while some kids have occasionally teased him for walking on his ''tippy toes,'' he seems unperturbed.
Hope this helps.
Mom of Toe Walkers
If you have ruled out cerebral palsy, then your best bet is the heel cord lengthening. Children's Hospital Oakland, Orthopaedics have an excellent record. This surgery doesn't always fix the problem, but from evidenced based medicine (research)it is the best option.
My 5 year old nephew has been walking on tiptoes 99% of
time, since age 2. His doctor says he does it for fun and
nothing to worry about. We are concerned. Anyone have
experience with this?
I'm a college freshman who toe walks. I've walked like this since I began walking. I
walk like this because of needing more sensory feedback. One should try to consult
a PT about this. My parents were told not to worry about this when I was a child
One of my daughters (now 18) did this until she was about six.
From the time she walked she did it pretty much only on tiptoes,
we used to call her the little ballerina. However, the doctor
said there was no medical reason for her to be doing it (some
kids are born with short tendons/ligaments that make it
hard/impossible to stand flat - my husband had surgery for this
when he was 4 years old which is why we were concerned with our
daughter) and that she would probable grow out of it. So we just
let her keep doing it, and she eventually stopped, although every
once in a while I still see her standing on her toes
(subconciously, and she walks normally now.) Since the doctor is
not concerned I wouldn't worry about it. If adults are giving him
lots of attention for it, it might be encouraging, however, so I
would say just ignore it, and he'll probably grow out of it
-Mother of former ballerina
You may want to have your son evaluated for Sensory Integration
Disorder. Many children who have Sensory Integration Disorder
do this because it heightens the sensorial awareness used for
walking. Does he also flap his arms sometimes (or a lot?)
Please have him evaluated. It's helpful to learn these things
sooner than later, and how relieved you will be if it's just a
anon mom w/an early childhood specialist in the family
this page was last updated: Jan 6, 2009
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