What causes a child to walk on his or her toes?

There are a few reasons why a child may be a toe walker. As a child learns to walk, it's normal for them to walk on the balls of their feet as they learn how to manipulate their legs and feet into the proper human stance and gait.

Some children have muscular or neurological problems (nerve problems) that can cause toe walking. Cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy, for example, can cause toe walking. That being said, there are a group of children who walk on their toes for no apparent physical reason.

Children who have no obvious diagnosis, like CP, to explain their toe walking are often diagnosed with idiopathic toe walking, or toe walking for no known reason. Some children do it out of habit, others just do it.

Researchers have found that children with ITW can alter their gait on demand in many (not all) cases.

Reference: 

David E. Westberry, MD, et al. Idiopathic Toe Walking. In Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics. April/May 2008. Vol. 28. No. 3. Pp. 352-358.

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