Lots of toddlers walk only on their tip-toes for a while and, like thumb-sucking or comfort blankets, most will simply grow out of it. There are, however, certain factors to look out for as the condition may indicate another, more serious problem which could need specialist attention.
Tip-toe walking means your child is only using the balls of the feet, and that the heel is not really coming into contact with the ground. For most kids this lasts 2-3 months while they learn to walk (at between 10 and 18 months) and once they’ve got the hang of taking proper steps their gait will be completely normal.
If tip-toe walking lasts longer than three months however, or if your child is still doing it after the age of three, there’s a danger that the calf muscles and general posture will be damaged. A pair of firm boots which cover the ankle will help him or her take normal steps, and so will ‘training’ sessions where you concentrate on waking together. If this doesn’t work your doctor or physiotherapist will be able to recommend special stretching exercises designed to loosen the Achilles tendon and other ankle muscles, tightness in which can cause tip-toe walking, and if there’s a more serious physical problem your doctor may suggest the temporary use of a brace.
In rare cases however, tip-toe walking can be one of the symptoms (alongside a more general difficulty in performing fiddly tasks) of mild cerebral palsy or a developmental disorder such as autism, so it’s important to keep an eye on the condition and let your doctor know about any associated changes. In most cases however, particularly with a bit of gentle parental help, tip-toe walking is a phase that will pass and will leave no lasting damage.
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