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How to prevent toe walking

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How to prevent toe walking

By Dianne Woodruff, CMA, PhD

Children often develop toe walking because they have been helped by some well-meaning relative/caregiver. The relative sees that the child naturally picks up one foot when the other is on the ground, or the lap, or wherever there is a surface, thinking in error that the child is ready to walk. The relative supports the child by the hands while this alternating foot action takes place. This is not a service to impose on any child. 

The alternating foot action is a reflex but does not mean the child’s neuromuscular framework is ready for full weight bearing. The relative is teaching the child that support comes from the sky, not from the earth so the child walks on the forefoot as it reaches toward the support. To walk properly using the full foot, the child needs to gradually discover his/her own weight-bearing and the feeling of pressing the weight against the floor. The child needs to experience the surface (not the sky) as a support and gradually develop the strength to lift his/her weight up to standing. This is the natural resistance work every normal child will use if allowed to move and explore this magical time. 

Furthermore, by helping the child, any running sport the child tries will be compromised as that child struggles to run, stop and quickly shift weight to kick a ball, etc.

Give the child a safe place to practice by itself and watch him/her figure out how to do it. NEVER help a child learn to walk.

*Dianne Woodroof, CMA, PhD, wrote this article in response to the Toe Walking Alert article featured in the July issue of City Parent.