Walking on tiptoe, also known as toe walking, is a common occurrence among many toddlers, and, without any other physical or developmental issues, is rarely cause for concern by itself, according to the Mayo Clinic website. That being said, it's worth taking a toddler who persists in toe walking after 3 years old to a healthcare professional for formal evaluation. While toe walking could be nothing more than habit left over from when your toddler first learned to walk, it could also be indicative of poor muscle tone, poor coordination or other developmental issues, according to the Canadian Children's Healthcare resource, AboutKidsHealth.ca.
Many toddlers walk on tiptoe because the muscles in their heels, calves and ankles lack the necessary flexibility to make proper walking comfortable. You can help keep your child from toe walking by increasing the flexibility in these areas. Have your little one lie on a firm flat surface and gentle stretch her ankles by slowly pushing them into the flat position -- as if she were standing -- holding for 10 to 15 seconds and repeating, recommends AboutKidsHealth. Other stretches include bending your toddler's entire leg at the knee while holding the foot in a flat position for 10 to 15 seconds to stretch out the Achilles tendon. Sing songs or tell her a story while doing these stretches and never stretch her joint to the point of causing your toddler discomfort.
Certain accessories can make walking on tiptoe difficult, such as adding weight around the ankles. Ankle weights should be selected and used under the guidance of a licensed occupational therapist; do not attempt to strap the same ankle weights you use for step aerobics to your 2-year-old's legs. According to Area Education Agency, wearing appropriately sized ankle weights can make it difficult for toddlers to fall back on an old habit. Also, the same way infants have an easier time controlling a weighted spoon when learning to feed themselves, having the extra weight around her feet can make it easier to properly control the rest of her legs while walking flat-footed.
The Right Shoes
Walking on tiptoes is nearly impossible while wearing athletic shoes with relatively inflexible soles and full coverage around the foot and ankle, according to Area Education Agency. Have your toddler wear these shoes indoors for a portion of the day to prevent toe walking. Let her choose from several different styles of shoes so she doesn't feel like wearing them is punishment. Practice marching up and down the hall together to music or anything else that makes the experience fun and enjoyable.
Walking correctly requires developing an understanding of what that process physically feels like. Let your child practice proper heel-to-toe walking in different sensory environments like grass, sand or in dried beans or rice. Let her lie on her back with her feet flat on a gently textured board and have her move her feet up and down while keeping them flat. As she becomes more sensitive to sensations throughout her entire foot, walking correctly will feel more natural than walking on her toes, according to Area Education Agency.