According to the Mayo Clinic, most toddlers occasionally “toe walk” when they are cruising around their home. Some children will keep doing it as they get older just for fun, and if you have a budding prima donna spinning through your home, she’ll especially like to practice on her toes.
Toe walking is a natural part of learning to walk and run,” says Dr. Harold Harris, a pediatrician based in California. “But if your toddler is toe walking most of the time, or it appears as if she can’t easily support her weight on a flat foot, you should speak to your pediatrician.
If your toddler tiptoes constantly, she may have a physical issue like a short Achilles tendon. “Such a condition actually inhibits your toddler from flat-footed walking,” says Harris. “You’ll also notice a restricted range of motion in her ankle.” Still, the most likely cause of constant toe walking is a motor disorder, such as mild cerebral palsy. “Diplegia is by far the most common form if cerebral palsy,” says Harris. “This form of cerebral palsy affects the lower body, and is common in children born prematurely. In this scenario, your toddler may be toe walking because her calf muscles and Achilles tendon is simply too tight, causing her toes to be pulled down and her heel to be pulled up.
If your pediatrician rules out cerebral palsy and she has a good range of motion in her ankle, then your little one will probably be diagnosed with something called idiopathic toe walking. Although the diagnosis sounds terrible, take heart – it’s a catchall phrase that means the doctor doesn’t know what’s causing the issue. “The next step is to look at associated symptoms,” says Harris. “Idiopathic toe walking is often accompanied by language difficulties and specific types of autism, so it’s crucial to talk about these issues, if present, with your doctor.”
What Your Doctor May Say
If your doctor determines that your child has a short Achilles tendon, common treatment methods include lightweight braces and stretching exercises. Your toddler will probably wear the brace 24/7 until the issue is resolved,” says Harris. “In severe cases, surgery may be the recommended resolution. If your doctor determines your toddler’s problem is not physical – instead, a problem with delayed socialization, your toddler’s therapy should resolve the underlying issues, says Harris.