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Toe walking

Toe walking is a descriptive term that is used for a child that walks on their toes. If your child toe walks and you are concerned you should have your child assessed by a podiatrist at

Toe walking

Toe walking describes a gait (the way we walk) in which a child walks on the ball of their foot with either no, or very little heel to toe contact; this means that the heel does not touch the ground. Toe walking is common in children who are learning to walk and will normally disappear when the child reaches two years old. If a child continues to toe walk past the age of two, then the reason for this should be investigated.

What causes toe walking?

Toe walking is common amongst toddlers, however a normal heel to toe gait should begin soon after this age. If a child is still toe walking beyond age two, then the cause may be due to one of the following:

  • Shortened calf muscles
  • Habit
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Muscle dystrophies

It is important to establish the cause of your child's toe walking so that the correct treatment plan can take place.

What are the signs and symptoms of toe walking?

The signs that a child is toe walking are very obvious to parents and carers as the child will walk on the balls of their feet, as though they are always walking on tip toes. A child who toe walks will have very little or no heel-to-toe contact.

Types of toe walking

Idiopathic/habitual Idiopathic or habitual toe walking is when a child walks on their toes but the cause is unknown, this means that there is no neuromuscular or orthopaedic reason for the child's toe walking. Habitual toe walkers often walk on the balls of their feet out of habit, and will eventually grow out of it. Sometimes a child that toe walks does so due to not liking the sensation of certain materials on their feet and may be linked with autism, particularly if the child is having delays in communication and language.


Neuromuscular toe walking is when a child walks on the balls of their feet due to a neuromuscular condition. Neuromuscular conditions associated with toe walking in children include:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Muscular dystrophies

How is toe walking diagnosed?

Our podiatrists here at are able to diagnose and evaluate your child's toe walking. Our podiatrists will perform a biomechanical and neurological assessment on your child in order to ascertain the cause of their toe walking, and then apply an appropriate treatment plan.

Benefits of podiatry for toe walking

If your child toe walks they will benefit from podiatry. Podiatric benefits that may be achieved for a child that toe walks include:

  • Improved gait
  • Improved heel to toe contact
  • Increase in muscle strength
  • Increase in muscle flexibility
  • Reduction in high pressure areas
  • Removal of callous

The degree of improvement depends on the severity of the toe walking. The benefits that your child should expect to receive will be fully explained at the end of the assessment with the podiatrist.s

What would podiatry for toe walking involve?

Podiatry for toe walking in children would involve a thorough history, this includes medical and social. Our podiatrists will then assess your child's foot and leg function and have a look at your child walking. A neurological assessment will also be performed. All tests are painless and are carried out in a large open gym space with lots of toys and visual aids to keep your child amused and make the experience an enjoyable one. Once a diagnosis of toe walking has been made and the cause established, this will be discussed with you, and treatment options outlined. Treatment for toe walking in children may include:

If the podiatrist feels that your child would benefit from another specialism, then this can be arranged. At we have excellent links with specialist paediatric neurological physiotherapists here at the clinic.


Toe walking in children is quite common among toddlers, and often the child will begin a normal heel to toe walking pattern by approximately age three. If a child continues to toe walk past the age of three, the reason for this needs to be established so that appropriate treatment can take place.

Our podiatrists here at are trained in the diagnosis and treatment of a number of paediatric conditions affecting the leg and foot.

To make an appointment for an assessment with us at please Email or call 0330 088 4222.

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