Have you started to notice that your child is walking on their toes while playing, walking around the house or out in the community? It may be something they do all the time or only a few times a day.
Things to consider when observing your child:
- Are they on their toes every time they walk?
- Do you they walk on their toes with their shoes off?
- Do they walk on their toes with their shoes on?
- Can they put their heels down to the ground?
If you answered “yes” to numbers 1, 2, OR 3 and/or “no” to number 4, you may want to consider taking your child to a physical therapist (PT). To schedule an appointment with a PT, click here. A PT can determine a cause for the toe walking and they can teach your child how to walk with their heels on the ground.
There are several different reasons your child may be walking on their toes:
- Tight muscles in the back of their lower leg (calf muscles – gastrocnemius, soleus)
- Weak muscle in the front of their lower leg (anterior tibialis helps bring your foot off the ground)
- They may have a sensory concern and do not like their heels on the ground
- Unknown reason
For any of the above, there are multiple exercises you can try at home to help decrease toe walking. Here are a few you can start with now:
1. Have your child lie on his/her back on a comfortable surface such as a firm bed. With his/her knee straight and leg supported on the bed, bring your child’s foot upwards, toward their head bending his/her ankle. Hold the stretch at the end of the movement (that is, as far as your child’s range of motion will permit) for 15 to 30 seconds. This should not be painful for your child.
2. Have your child lie on his/her back on a comfortable surface such as a firm bed. With his/her knee bent and leg supported on the bed, bring your child’s foot upwards, toward their head, bending his/her ankle. Hold the stretch at the end of the movement (that is, as far as your child’s range of motion will permit) for 15 to 30 seconds. This should not be painful for your child.
3. Have your child stand on a wedge with knees straight and heels on the wedge. Perform fun activities that your child enjoys such as coloring, doing a puzzle, or board/card games. You can use a wedge, as pictured, or use a board with books under 1 side to give a slight angle. This should not be painful for your child.
1. Penguin Walks! Have your child lift their toes in the air and take steps forward, acting like they are walking like a penguin. Your child may need hand held assistance to walk at first.
2. Have your child sit in a chair or stand. Start with sitting and as he/she gets stronger, progress to standing. Place a bean bag on top of his/her foot and have your child transfer it to a bucket or basket. As your child gets stronger, he/she can lift the bean bag off the floor by themselves.
3. Have your child sit on a scooter board with their feet in front of them. Place heels on the ground and toes up in the air. Use their heels to press into the ground and propel themselves forward.
4. Have your child sit on a child sized chair or stool. Place your hands above his/her ankles, providing moderate and constant pressure downward to keep their heels on the floor. Have your child practice standing up and down while keeping their heels on the ground. You can make this exercise fun by reaching for objects, singing songs or blowing bubbles.
Have fun with these stretching and strengthening exercises by making them into a game or while doing activities that your child enjoys!
You will also need to see a physical therapist to address toe walking that is caused by decreased range of motion and strength and sensory concerns. A physical therapist will provide you with additional exercises for your child to do in the clinic and at home!
-Kelly Steiner, Physical Therapist