Toe Walking In Kids: Causes, When To See An Orthopedist, And Treatments

From the time your child can walk up until the age of 3, your child may display a tendency towards toe walking. While occasional toe walking can continue beyond that age, below is an explanation of what causes toe walking in children and why your child should be seen by an orthopedist if it does continue.

What Causes Toe Walking?

Toe walking is a common condition in toddlers. If your child doesn't outgrow the behavior, you may begin to wonder about the causes associated with it.  

Common causes of toe walking past the age of 3 include a short Achilles tendon (the tendon behind the ankle that connects the foot to the leg), cerebral palsy, and muscular dystrophy. There is another cause of toe walking, referred to as idiopathic. This means that your child's toe walking isn't caused by a physical defect and will usually resolve on its own, but your child may need to work with a physical therapist until that happens to ensure their muscles don't become damaged.

When Should My Child Be Seen By an Orthopedic Surgeon?

If your child's toe walking has become a concern of yours, your child's pediatrician will likely refer them to an orthopedic surgeon. The orthopedist can help to diagnose the issue and refer your child out for any further services, such as physical therapy.

While your pediatrician may wait until the age of three to refer your child, you can request an earlier referral if you notice other signs of a major condition, such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy. Signs, in addition to toe walking, may include your child favoring one side of their body over the other, general weakness, and clumsiness.

How Is Toe Walking Treated?

If your child's toe walking is caused by a physical defect, your child's orthopedist will diagnose the defect and create a treatment plan specific to them.

Physical therapy is a common treatment option – it can help to lengthen and strengthen the tendons and muscles, as well as help your child to learn a proper gait. Leg braces may be used to keep your child's feet in the proper position, and this is used to treat idiopathic (without a physical cause) toe walking, as well as to help delay the symptoms of cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy.

To learn more about toe walking and to learn whether your child's toe walking is a symptom of a greater issue, consult with your child's pediatrician or with an orthopedic surgeon like Omaha Orthopedic Clinic & Sports Medicine PC.