Toe Walking

Definition: condition where person walks on their toes while the heel makes none/little contact with the ground; common in toddlers learning to walk

Medical terminology: toe walking, tip-toe gait

What is toe walking?

Toe walking is a condition which a person walks on the toes or ball of the foot while putting little to no weight on the heel.  This condition is most often seen in young children learning to walk.

If a child continues to walk on their toes through early childhood, they should be evaluated by a foot specialist or medical doctor.

What causes toe walking?

Toe walking can be caused by many different reasons ranging from bad habit, tight Achilles tendon or a neurological/muscular disorder.

  • Idiopathic (habitual) – unknown cause; child may walk on toes simply because they prefer it
  • Tight/Short Achilles tendon – if the tendon is tight/short, heel unable to make ground contact
  • Neurological/Muscular disorder – Cerebral palsy causes muscle spasticity; Duchenne muscular dystrophy can cause toe walking

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How do you treat toe walking?

It is important to see a foot specialist to evaluate the extent of the toe walking and what the cause of the condition may be. Treatment for toe walking will depend on the what’s causing the condition. Treatment options include:

  • Watch and wait – child may “outgrow” the condition
  • Serial casting – used for newborns to stretch the Achilles tendon
  • Braces or splints – encourages the stretching of the Achilles tendon
  • Botox therapy – paralyzes the calf muscle allowing the stretching of the Achilles tendon