Baby toes are cute little flower buds. Did you notice they randomly clench and unclench toe while they are walking?
This is actually a normal part of infant development. Still, the parents are asking, why does my baby jump on her toes?
After the clumsy stage of learning to walk most babies develop a new walking pattern to walk on their toes. Researchers say that five to twelve percent of healthy kids toe-walk for no apparent reason.
This may be an unconscious habit and sometimes parents encourage this walking pattern who think this is so cute.
The children start their walking usually between 12-15 months of age. They start with different foot positions mainly walking up on their toes.
I suggest that this is not something that should be more concerned about. Because it is expected for typically developing children to walk on their toes occasionally.
But if your baby tries to walk on toes more than 50% of their walking time or some kids walk on toes all the time, you need to consult a healthcare professional to get proper guidance.
Causes for persistent toe walking
There are many underline medical or developmental conditions that can cause your child to walk on their toes.
That is mainly the autism spectrum disorder. Other conditions such as cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy can cause by this.
These conditions may diagnose before the child is walking sometimes. But most of the medical attention gets when the parents see the awkward toe-walking of their kids.
It is important for them to have a medical screening if their child shows toe walking more than 50% of their walking time.
There is a child category that shows idiopathic toe walking. These children seem to walk on their toes for no apparent reason.
Doctors can’t find specific medical, developmental, or other health reasons for toe walking.
This category can walk flat-footed and be able to stand flatfooted. But they can’t walk with a concentrated walking pathway. As soon as they concentrate on walking, their toes get to revert back
Can my baby walk with shoes? Is it aggravating the problem
These children can walk properly with their shoes most of the time. But as soon as they remove them, they automatically convert into toe walking.
Researchers point out that there is no apparent reason for this idiopathic toe walking as well. A detailed assessment should be done by a health care professional to assess the causes for this toe walking and can categorize as follows.
- Your child may have a sensory problem or another kid with a sensory difficulty. They choose toe walking to get more sensory feedback through the stronger foot muscles.
- They also love the bouncing effect while on-toe walking which additionally gives them sensory input.
- Walking on toes decreases the sensory feedback to the heels. That activity is counterbalanced by their sensory difference.
- Persistent reflex activities of your kid cause them to push on their toes when they walk
- Some kids have low body strength. So their abdominal and glute muscles have poor activation and so they can not initiate walking.
- They try to overuse their calf muscles and propel themselves forward by jumping their toes.
What will happen if I ignore my child’s toe-walking?
Apart from the cosmetic problem, this persistent toe walking causes a few complications in the child’s later life. Depending on the person, it may or may not be a cosmetic problem for them.
Few complications of toe walking
- Pain in the feet – These kids try to overstretch their feet to get the heel to the ground.
- They exert excess weight through the ball of the foot. Children who walk on their ball of feet take all the weight over the ball of the foot which has more ligaments and a few smaller bones.
- Those bones are not designed to take all the body weight so the ligaments are overstretched causing pain.
- Low back pain
- Contracture of the Achilles tendon
- Difficulty walking up hills
What should I do?
I highly recommend having your kid seen by a GP, or pediatrician, if your kid frequently walks on their feet. They will illicitly underline medical or developmental conditions.
I also recommend having your child assessed by a physiotherapist who works in the field of idiopathic toe walking and having his assessment.
If you can treat your kid before the age of 2, you can get a good result in addressing the issues of idiopathic toe walking.
What you can expect from your child’s appointment
I recommend consulting a physiotherapist who works in the play and moving pediatric therapy area. They will assess and identify underline reasons for toe walking.
So the individualized treatment program will benefit for your kid to address the problem. They use a variety of treatment sessions such as exercises and stretches, taping, serial casting, and a few different types of braces.
Treatments can last from 4 weeks to many years.
An experienced orthopedic surgeon will help you to address the issues of the child’s calf and Achilles tendon tightness whether it can be released with Botox injection or by surgery.
I hereby suggest to you that you need a support of a multidisciplinary team to stop your kid’s toe walking. Their overall effort will get you good results.
Baby’s curling their toes can be associated with toe walking
Newborn babies are having several inborn reflexes. Reflexes are kind of actions that happen without any thought. Those actions happen as a response to certain specific stimuli.
Reflex happens when there is a stroke from heel to toe
Toes fan out while big toe flexes
Touch behind the toes on the sole of the foot
Toes grasp your finger
The baby is held upright and the soles of the feet are placed on a textured surface; the baby is tipped a little forward
The infant steps forward with one foot and then the other as if walking
Babies are born with reflexes to respond to quick stimuli and make survive them if they are harmful. These involuntary reflexes become voluntary movements after some time.
Till that it may be associated with the toe walking of your kid because curling of your toes can present with this reflex activity.
Toe walking is associated with the sensory problems of kids.
Toe walking is also associated with sensory problems sometimes. You can see this with kids having sensory processing disorder or autism spectrum disorder most of the time.
Some premature babies had their heels repeatedly pricked for blood tests and caused tissue damage. Later those heels become hypersensitive.
It is important to get it checked out that sensory problems of the kids may be associated with autism, muscular dystrophy, and cerebral palsy.
Few researchers showed that 19% of children with autism show toe walking and they are prone to repetitive behaviors or sensory issues.
Most of the time toe walking is a normal part of infant development. Normally a baby starts walking at the age of 12-15 months.
If your baby tries to do toe walking more than 50% of their walking time, that is a red flag that you need to be concerned about.
If you ignore toe walking, it may cause a few difficulties in your kid’s development in walking. So it is better to consult your pediatrician if you notice excessive toe walking in your kid.
Idiopathic toe walking, toe walking due to sensory problems, and toe walking as a habit are the main reasons for this problem in your kid’s life.