Toe walking: causes, epidemiology, assessment, and treatment

Curr Opin Pediatr. 2016 Feb;28(1):40-6. doi: 10.1097/MOP.0000000000000302.


Purpose of review: The present review includes the most up-to-date literature on the causes, epidemiology, diagnosis, and treatment of toe walking.

Recent findings: The prevalence of toe walking at age 5.5 years is 2% in normally developing children, and 41% in children with a neuropsychiatric diagnosis or developmental delays. A recent systematic review concluded that there is good evidence for casting and surgery in the treatment of idiopathic toe walking, with only surgery providing long-term results beyond 1 year. Botox combined with casting does not provide better outcomes compared with casting alone. Ankle-foot-orthoses restrict toe walking when worn, but children revert to equinus gait once the orthosis is removed.

Summary: Toe walking can occur because of an underlying anatomic or neuromuscular condition, but in the majority of cases toe walking is idiopathic, without a discernable underlying cause. For some families, toe walking may simply be a cosmetic concern, whereas in other cases it can cause pain or functional issues. Treatment for toe walking is based on age, underlying cause, and the severity of tendon contracture. Described treatments include casting, chemical denervation, orthotics, physical therapy, and surgical lengthening of the gastroc-soleus-Achilles complex. A careful history, clinical exam, and selective diagnostic testing can be used to differentiate between different types of toe walking and determine the most appropriate treatment for each child.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Casts, Surgical
  • Child
  • Foot Orthoses
  • Gait Disorders, Neurologic / epidemiology
  • Gait Disorders, Neurologic / etiology*
  • Gait Disorders, Neurologic / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Medical History Taking / methods
  • Movement Disorders / epidemiology
  • Movement Disorders / etiology*
  • Movement Disorders / therapy*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / surgery
  • Physical Examination / methods
  • Tenotomy / methods
  • Toes / physiopathology*
  • Walking / physiology