36 answers

Toddler Walking on Tippy Toes

Hello,

I don't know if I should be concerned about this or not.
But my son just turned two and has been walking on his tippy toes ever since he started walking and in the beginning we tought it was cute and funny. But people ask why he does this and some say its because he is flat footed or because he just likes to do it.
So, I went online and did some research and it says that its nos unusual that kids do this but its an early sign of autism if they keep on doing this after 3 years old.
When we went to have doctor checkup for his 24 months he did an autism screening and everything went fine he is developing great. But now that I read this im a little concerned.

Is there anyone going trough this or has any information regarding this subject I would really appreciate it.

Thanks

J.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Hello,

Thank you so much all of you for your advice it helped so much. Today early inthe morning I called his ped. and spoke to the advice nurse. She gave me really good advice. Looking at his health reacord and visits, she said that he has been developing just great and that it is not unusual for kids to walk on their toes some up till 6 years old. So my immidiate concern has been settled.

And againg
thanks for the advice.

Featured Answers

My son walked on his toes until he was 10 or so, then I asked the doc. We discovered that the muscle that runs under the foot and up the back of his leg was too tight. He could not pick up his foot from the toes at all. He went to physical therapy and now he is fine.

SAHM mom of 5 ages 21 to 14, whew!

I'd be more concerned with the proper growth of his tendons, particularly the achilles. If they aren't growing at the same rate that the rest of his leg muscles are, it may be that it's impossible or at least uncomfortable for him to walk properly, heels down.
Good luck!
A.

Hi J.,
One trick that I use for my daughter is to always keep her sneakers or sandals on her. Its harder for her to walk on her tip toes when she has weighty shoes on.

M.

More Answers

My mother-in-law told me that my husband used to walk on his tip toes. She told him to the doctor and the doctor said that his muscles in the lower part of the backs of his legs and feet were tight and to massage them to loosen them up. After a month or so of doing this his muscles loosen up and the doctor said he would be fine.

Let me assure you..it doesn't always mean autisum. My sister did that when she was little and she does not have autisum. We just joked that she was just born to walk in high heals..lol Now in your sons situation...maybe he will just grow out of it. I am sure he is just fine. =) Sometimes we can let the diagnosis of the computer scare us but believe me, it isn't always what it seems...like I said my sister doesn't have autisum...infact sometimes she still does it...without shoes on.

God Bless..
A. T

Hey J.,
I've seen lots of kids in my mom's group walk on there tip toes, and for the most part I think they do it because it's a new thing they've discovered. Touch sensitivity is an issue for autistic kids, but if he doesn't seem to care about other things like particular shoes, or doesn't like to touch things, gets upset with new textures, then I wouldn't worry too much. I practice homeopathic medicine in my house and I've done research on autism and ADHD(on the autism scale now)for some clients, and there are some key factors relating to it. 1.) Too many immunizations- they strip the coating on the nerves so they "short circuit" just like electrical wires.
Remedy- rebuild the coating with lots of Omega 3's- chewable supplements are available at target.
2.) Too many toxins- cleaning products, food, air it's everywhere- Start by doing non toxic cleaning and try to eat organic, limit vaccines.
3.) Lack of minerals- our poor american diet doesn't provide enough and it's hard to absorb in supplements unless you pay big bucks- try to eat mineral rich foods.

I hope this helps and don't worry, I'm sure he'll be a normal happy kid.

I wouldn't be extremely concerned. My daughter did the very same thing! We found out that the muscles in her leg were tight and we learned how to stretch them out (we took her to some therapy session). We also learned to give her queues when we saw her go up on her toes - "flat feet". She now does fine and walks very normal. I would check with the pediatrician to see if maybe this is the case for your son.

J.,
I am a pediatric physical therapist (and a mom of a 2 and 4 year old). Typically kids walk on tip toes for added stability. That seems counterintuitive but being on your tiptoes locks out the ankle which has the most degrees of freedom (meaning directions it can move). By standing on your tip toes you limit the degrees of freedom. Some children do this as they learn but some kids keep doing it out of habit or out of the need for that stability. The problem that can arise is that the gastroc and soleus muscles in the calf can shorten and make it difficult for him to begin walking with a normal gait pattern. I am sure he is standing flat footed which does stretch the muscles somewhat. However, if he always walks on his toes or does so more than 50% of the time you need to change the pattern. With some kids it is as easy as telling them to walk on their heels first and showing them how. For others they are doing it because they need stretching and strengthening in other muscles to help them. If you can't get him to do it, I would suggest getting a referral from your pediatrician to see a pediatric PT. I worked at Children's Hospital for years and they have many out reach centers in the area but are hard to get into. There are plenty other pediatric PTs in the area as well. Good Luck and hope that helps.

K.

Hi!
When my son was a toddler, he also did that, and still does, from time to time. It is random. Nothing brings it on. We had him looked at back then, for concerns that there may be issues with tendons/muscles/ligaments not being fully or correctly formed. He was also flexing in his sleep. But once he really started getting around, it subsided. Some folks just
enjoy walking that way. I have a friend whose husband does it. He says its just something he has always done, and will walk flat as well. If you are really concerned, have them check out his legs and feet, and if they say he is good..I would not worry. Autism at this age should be known by other behaviors that would be present. But always seek the advice of a Doctor, rule out the issues, and then have a great day!
Regards,
W.

J.,
Dont worry about that at all! Use it as a time to teach your son about his "tipy-toes" I had a song that I would sing to my kids...and I would demonstrate as I sang...and to this day we sing the song...and laugh...it went like this. "tipy, tipy tipy toes....heel, heel,heel heel..." Make up a catchy tune and walk on your "tipy toes...then heel, heel heels! Its fun...

Don't worry J....my cousin walked on his tippy toes until he was 8 years old! All of his footwear looked like clown shoes because of this :) For some reason, he said he enjoyed the feeling of walking on his tippy toes. He developed just fine and is now 20 years old.

Since the Doc ruled out any health issues, if someone comments that something must be wrong when he walks this way, tell them that it's just a phase. Remember---he's not the first nor the last to explore the world in an elevated manner(smile). Happy parenting!

I don't have much experience with this - however, if you have medical insurance, why not have your DR send you to an orthopedist. They would be the best people to tell you if this is normal, related to the structure of your sons feet, or perhaps neurological. It may just be that your son has very tight ligaments or tendons that may need stretching with some gentle physical therapy. In any case, I would have it looked at because continuing to walk on his toes could effect the way his bones develop since the weight is being borne differently by the body.

Hi J.,

My daughter also does this. I was afraid there was something wrong with her Achilles tendon, so I made sure to mention it to her doctor when she was 2 y.o. I was told many little ones do this and it's of no concern.
When she was 6 y.o. she was still doing this and she started having pain while walking up stairs, and anytime she was on her feet flat. Of course, I took her to the doctor, and this time I was told that the pain was because her tendon had shortened from being on her tip toes all the time, and that she needed to have physical therapy, or surgery!
We did physical therapy to stretch the tendon. She is now 7-1/2 (8 y.o. in Nov.) and she STILL needs to be reminded to walk on her feet flat several times a day. She is very bright (I had to start homeschooling, because she was bored in school), and has no other problems. She has nice arches, too. On the other hand, she's awesome at ballet!
So, my answer is -- don't worry about it, he's probably fine, but encourage him to walk flat on his feet. You don't want it to be a habit, and don't need the problems with the Achilles tendon.
Blessings,
R.

I have taught toddlers for nine years now, and have seen quite a few "toe-walkers". None of them have ever been diagnosed with autism, and I have had two students who have had autism as well. Toe walking is a fairly normal developmental process most children go through. As the leg and feet muscles develop and become stronger most children outgrow it. If your son continues, runs on his toes, stands on toes, etc. you may want to get a second opinion. It is not normal to habitually walk on toes and can actually hurt the full development of your son's feet and leg muscles.

Some children correct the problem simply by wearing heavier shoes so their feet receive the stimuli they are seeking. Some children have to wear braces that force them to walk flat on their feet and retrain their muscles so they don't walk on their toes. Some children go through PT and/or OT to correct the musculature. In any case, if your son walks most of the time on his toes, advocate for him until someone helps him. I have seen parents whose pediatrician kept saying it wasn't a problem, then years later had to go through drastic measures to correct it because it went on so long. Good Luck with your son!

Many years ago, a little boy that I used to babysit had the same issue. If I recall (its been about 25 years ago, his problem had something to do with the shortening of the tendons that ran down the back of his leg and into his foot. When he was about 4 or 5, they did surgery and put him in casts that weighted down the back of his feet. That took care of the problem for him. He is now 30 years old and you would never know that he ever had any issues like that when he was young. I hope this helps because I cant remember all of the details from so long ago.

Is your son walking on his toes or the balls of his feet? Almost all children start out walking on the balls of their feet, so that is natural. Both my brother (who is now in his 50s) and I (getting close to that) both have always walked on the balls of our feet. Neither of us is at all autistic - nor are any of our children. And my dance instructors frequently commented on how high my arches were as I was changing shoes in class, so it has nothing to do with your son possibly having flat feet. Walking on the balls of ones feet is just natural to some people. And usually has to be taught to those studying martial arts in this country. We have strong (but not large) calf and thigh muscles. My physical therapist (from when my ACL snapped in a roller skating accident) found it unusual, but he also remarked on the speed of recovery of full mobility in that knee. He also admitted that it was way better for the knees than the "earth shoe" fad of the 70s where the heel was the lowest part of the foot which put greater pressure on the knees.
A lot of children learn to walk the "normal way" around the time that they start playing a lot with other children that are their own size. Right now he is the smallest in the house and all of the fun things are up high to him, so he has to stretch to the fullest to see, and reach, and do a lot.
If you are truely concerned that there is a problem with his walking that could effect the development of his foot - like walking on the toes instead of the balls of his feet - consult a pediatric podiatrist about it. Yes, it is a specialist, but it could put your mind at ease.

J. -
Both of my girls did this when little and still do it - I tell them both now "FEET" and they immediately drop down. Drives me insane when I see them doing this. There is no sign of autism in either girl - my oldest is 12 and is in the advanced track for her grade - brings home all A's and B's and is a very bright, social girl. My yougest is also very bright and social - she's in 2nd grade but is also having no problems at all.

J.,

My daughter is 4 years old and autistic and she only did that when she was really excited about something which is normal for every child. Just curious, where did you read that? From what our doctors have said it's a sign of nervousness or insecurity. I did it and my husband did it when we were kids. I have a cousin that is 28 years old and still does it and he's not autistic. It can be corrected. All you have to do is talk to your little one and slow them down a bit. Try to think how you walk and and relax. That's what I do with my daughter and it works. Sometimes the energy they have makes them want to just bounce and we have to slow them down a bit so they don't developed bad habits or habits that can cause problems later in life. As for a sign of autism or other mental condition I'd ask your doctor about it first. Does AD/HD or autism run in the family? That is one of the key factors. Hope this helps you. God Bless.

My daughter has always walked on her tip toes. We thought it was cute and everyone asked if she was a dancer. She's now 8 and still does it--not all the time but often enough. The doctor said she should do stretches to stretch her achilles tendon, which we do when we remember. I'm not concerned, she is extremely bright and has no developmental issues.

This may just be normal for your son. I'm telling you this so you don't worry--it sounds like all is fine, just stay aware of it but try not to jump to any conclusions!

Hi J.! I just wanted to let you know that my cousin, who is now 16, walked on her tippy toes until she was four, and not only is she perfectly fine physically, she's also mentally ahead-she's going to college full-time already. Her younger brother, 14, walked on his tippy toes until just before he turned 4 and is also perfectly fine developmentally, and very intelligent as well. When those cousins were doing that, my other aunt mentioned that all of her four did it as well. They've all been in advanced classes, so I don't think it really is a sign of autism, just something that some kids do and some kids don't do.

I have a three year old daughter who does a lot of tippy toe walking. I took her to the doctors and they said everything was fine. I started telling my daughter to "march" instead of walk and then she will walk flat. Also make sure the area around the knee is not sure to touch and that you can stretch out his legs. Also pay attention to when he is very busy playing and running. When my daughter is very active she walks flat. Just remind him often to walk flat as much as possible otherwise he will start complaining of pain behind his knees from the muscles not being stretched enough.

J.

I, like my college roommate, has a toe walker...both children suffer from sensory integration issues (you can search on sensory integration disorder). My 4yo DD was a 3lb preemie + sensory issues are not uncommon among preemies. She has been receiving physical therapy since her 1st birthday (not yet crawling at that time) and her current physical therapist is quite concerned...even with braces she toe walks. The therapist believes she can no longer walk flat footed as her muscles won't stretch. She recommends botox...the pediatric neurologist disagrees. The neurologist specifically requested video of her walking on a variety of surfaces + both w/ and w/o braces + barefooted. We've got about an hours worth of video + will be visiting the neurologist again soon. So, bottomline, if I were you I would definitely talk to your pediatrician.

Regarding SID -- my daughter does have other sensory issues, sensitivity to bright lights, loud noises (often cries at the vacuum cleaner, but those 'hurricane' hand dryers in public restrooms don't bother her -- go figure?), oral issues (still sucks her thumb and/or blanket + mouths non-food objects) -- and this includes aversion to some foods only based on texture and will bite others -- when she's excited, not out of anger or frustration. I have never heard her complain about any smells though. On a bright note, she's been a very neat child, almost exclusively using a spoon and fork since ~16mos -- because she didn't want to touch the food with her hands!

Also, I have two friends w/ autistic children and there are four autistic children in my DD's special needs preschool class...none are toe-walkers.

Regards,
J.

J., My son is 10 still every once in a while does it and my doctor said it was not a problem, he can even run on his toes and he plays baseball. I have a brother in his 20's and his friend always walked on his tippy toes as a kid and we use to laugh at him because he did it all the time. Now as an adult his calf muscle are to die for, he has a very nice set of legs. So I would not worry about it, he will either out grow it, or have a nice set of legs. On a different note I have a son who is autistic and he has never walked on his toes. Hope this helps!
M. ~ mom of 5

Hi J.,

You've received lots of good advice here! I heard the same thing when I had concerns about my son walking on his toes when he was learning to walk so I asked his ped. The ped. said he was definitely not autistic (not only because of the toe-walking) but I still wanted a referral to the nearby center with specialists who work with children with autism. He obliged my request and my mind was put at ease with their evaluation through tests. I LOVED his ped. but knew he did have specialized training and KNEW that if my son had autism, the effects can be dramatically reduced if caught early.

Just to ease your mind, call the ped. and tell him/her you want a referral for an evaluation. They you know for sure and can relax about his toe walking.

DellaSue

Hi J.,
One trick that I use for my daughter is to always keep her sneakers or sandals on her. Its harder for her to walk on her tip toes when she has weighty shoes on.

M.

My son did that, and I had to take him to physical therapy because it meant his achilles tendon was too taught and would not stretch enough for him to walk normally. He still does it to some extent, but as soon as we remind him not to tip-toe, he can walk flat-footed. You should definitely have it checked out, because in extreme cases they need to wear special 'boots' to stretch that tendon. Good luck!

My nephew did this for years and today he is a strong healthy high school football player. Don't worry about it. If you are really concerned, ask for a referral to a neurologist, but I just think this is a quirk for him and he will change when he starts preschool and is around more kids.

J., one thing you can do that might help is to massage your child's feet. Does not have to be a professional foot massage. Just relaxing soft, long strokes along the soles of his feet. Always ask first. And if he is ticklish to the touch, just hold the palm of your hand on the bottom of his feet to help them relax. Quiet times or after a bath are good times to offer.
Kind of a family remedy...

My niece did the same thing... she is NOT autistic. There are WAY more significant markers to diagnose Autism. The tippy-toe thing, though... She has always preferred to walk on her tippies, and now, at 6 years old, she has been fitted with braces to help her muscles and tendons in the back of her legs develop properly and stretch out. I'm not sure what the answer is for you, but I would certainly try to discourage it, and see the doctor about it if it continues. My brother and sister-in-law have been trying to discourage their daughter from doing this for years, but as most children are... she resisted the instruction. I don't think their doctor is terribly worried about it, the braces will help, but obviously it would be better if she just walked on her whole foot from the beginning. Good luck.

Hi, J.!
I have friends whose daughter walked on her toes for years. They put her in braces, which didn't work, and then in casts, which finally did work, to break her of the habit. But she is otherwise a healthy, normal little girl - not autistic. So while you might have a problem getting him to stop walking on his toes, it is most likely not related to autism since his screening was fine. Good luck!!

Hello J.

You will probably read a lot of different opinions and that is good but always remember you know your child best of all. My cousin and my neighbor both walk on there toes and both of them are fine and do not have autism. Usually children w/autism show signs around 18months. Your son is well past that and if he isn't showing signs don't be too worried. He may just be a toe walker. L.

My daughter does the same thing if you tell her to walk flat foot she will though. We go tomorrow for her 3 year check up so I am planning on asking the doctor about it. I am not overly concerned because her daddy is a toe walker too. I will let you know what he says.

My son is 14 months old and walked on his tippy toes as well. (he started walking at about 9 months) He's been described as a "failure to thrive baby" mainly due to allergies and that's causes him to be underweight. My doctor suggest Physical Therapy to work on some muscle development. The physical therapist immediately noticed the "tippy Toe" thing. She had me immediately put him in shoes with a hard sole (he wears all day till he goes to bed) and we began stretching his legs and everything he began the tippy toe thing I'd massage the back on this ankle and he's begin to walk normally. After a couple of therapy sessions he really began to walk correctly.

My son walked on his toes until he was 10 or so, then I asked the doc. We discovered that the muscle that runs under the foot and up the back of his leg was too tight. He could not pick up his foot from the toes at all. He went to physical therapy and now he is fine.

SAHM mom of 5 ages 21 to 14, whew!

J.,

It could run in families also. My oldest cousin still walks on her toes quite often. I also walk on my toes, esp when I am cooking in the kitchen going back and forth. My youngest child is 5 and still walking on her toes a lot. I had also heard it is a symptom of tourrets. None of us have either autism or tourrets. I wouldn't let it worry you, maybe even ask around the family to see if anyone else has been a toe walker.

Does he have any other little "quirks", strange fears or resistance to touch, sensations, etc? My daughter is 3 walks on her tippy toes from time to time and we recently discovered that she has what is called SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder..or Sensory Integration Disorder). This is a condition where a child (or adult) has a hard time appropriately processing all the stimuli (sight, touch, sound, smell, etc) coming into their brain and can easily be on overload. The markers can be anything from resistance to hugs and touch, behavioral and meltdowns, covering ears, rocking, seeking touch or sensation..like through swinging, fear of water on skin, hard time with baths, etc. The tip toe thing is because of the abundance of sensation on the bottom of the feet when walking. I understand the Autism scare, but know we are not there and that through working with an OT (Occupational Therapist), she will be able to learn to take in and direct that sensations to a point that are comfortable. Please check out any on line search info on SPD or SID. You will find a wealth of info there that will explain any other "things" that might be going on with your son. Please feel free to be in touch if you have questions. Good luck, T. Squibb

Hi J.,
My experience with this is from my nephew who walked on tippy toes from the time he was born until he was about 4 years old. He developed fine..with some very strong calf muscles :-) and continues to be a very active, perfectly normal little boy (8 years old now). His mom is a nurse and she too checked into everything to be sure. I would say if his doctors are giving him the okay, and he is a normal, social child, not to worry too much. Perhaps he is just preparing for junior soccer league! Seriously though, if it is something that keeps you concerned, continue to bring those concerns up to the doctors when he has his regular check ups, and just know that there are other children out there who learned to walk like that, I guess just because that was how they felt most comfortable.

I'd be more concerned with the proper growth of his tendons, particularly the achilles. If they aren't growing at the same rate that the rest of his leg muscles are, it may be that it's impossible or at least uncomfortable for him to walk properly, heels down.
Good luck!
A.

J.,

My daughter walked on her tippy toes from the moment she started walking until she was around 8 years old. Once she got more used to walking it wasn't all the time, but still quite a bit. She has always been a very bright girl and is now 30 yeasrs old and we laugh how she still walks on her toes alot when she is home. She is a very successful wife, mother and professional. I wouldn't worry unless he exhibits other signs of autism. You know, medicine isn't an exact science.

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