As parents, we are very concerned about how our children develop. One thing that seems to push parents to seek a medical profession is how their child walks. Is toe walking bad? Does it mean that they will walk like that forever? Is it a sign that something else may be wrong? Let’s discuss.
Toe walking in and of its self is harmless and in most cases is simply how your child has decided to walk. Many children simply have chosen to toe walk because it is comfortable for them at this stage. If the child has been walking on their toes since their first step, there is additional assurance that nothing is wrong. If the child is old enough to respond to verbal commands, ask them to stand on their heels and to walk with their heels touching the ground. The far majority of children will be able to do this easily and painfree. This is a sign that there is no underlying problem or surgical issue that needs to be addressed.
Toe walking is only a sign of an underlying disorder when it is accompanied by other signs of slow development, or if the child was walking on their heels and then suddenly begins to walk on their toes. If the child is missing other milestones of growth, cognitive development, or other benchmarks, a pediatric physician should be consulted. If the child was walking normally and then begins to toe walk, or if they begin to toe walk only on one foot, this should also prompt evaluation. Pinching of the spinal cord from a myriad of possible sources could be the reason and can be addressed and reversed. It is possible, however, that the abrupt toe walking is a sign of a muscle or nerve development problem that may not be so easy to reverse. This represents a very small percentage of cases which your child most likely does not fit into.
In most cases, toe walking is not a sign of an underlying problem, and parents can be assured that their child will walk normally eventually. We’ll discuss some other common worries parents have for their young children in future posts.