What is Toe Walking?
“Toe walking” is just what it sounds like: Sometimes kids will walk on the balls of their feet, instead of using their whole foot. Many of our kids here are toe walkers, including kids both on and off the spectrum. It’s important to have physical therapy for toe walkers. Many people think that toe walking is a sensory issue and that it will resolve on its own, over time. But although toe walking can manifest itself as a sensory issue, it can turn into a larger issue. Imagine walking on your toes 24 hours a day! You’d end up with tightness in all your lower extremity muscles.
What Causes Toe Walking?
Toe walking has a lot of causes. It can start up because of core weakness, weakness in the legs and thigh muscles, or tightness in the ankle muscles. So when it comes to addressing toe walking with physical therapy, we address the issues of weakness and tightness. We also concentrate on the sensory systems, looking to see if there are any problems with the vestibular system, with vision, or with proprioception. We take a holistic approach, combining sensory and motor approaches, in order to resolve the toe walking.
How To Resolve Toe Walking
Toe walking cannot be resolved over a short period of time. It requires intensive therapy sessions where we use balance training activities and serial casting, a series of plaster casts that gradually re-aligns the affected joints. We also recommend AFOs (ankle-foot orthosis), which are braces that hold the foot in a normal position when the child walks. We also do strengthening and stretching exercises and give you exercises to do at home to help these kids develop a normal gait pattern. Our goal is a normal pattern which involves walking with a heel strike first, then foot flat, and then later running with good toe-heel placement.
Does your child need help with toe walking? Give us a call or schedule a tour with us to learn more about how we can help.