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What if you noticed that your child is a toe walker?
My Daughter is a Toe Walker. Now What?!
My daughter is a toe walker. She is also 11 years old. You all may be wondering how long we have known that she walks on her toes. Looking back, we can say she started walking on her toes when she was around 6 years old. This was the same time that she joined a swim team. My husband and I always assumed she was doing it because she didn’t want to walk flat-footed on the wet pavement. No big deal, right?
It soon became a habit. Ryleigh continued being on a swim team up until the age of 8 when she finally decided she was burned out. By this point, toe walking became a normal occurrence. She was walking on her toes through the house, out in public, and even while playing other sports. You could see the struggle when she would try to run. Her Achilles tendon had gotten so tight that she was unable to flatten her feet completely to even run.
We were told by a family member who is a physical therapist that Ryleigh’s toe walking could cause damage down the road if she continues to do it. I never thought of it causing damage. It obviously isn’t normal, but damage?
What’s the damage, doc?
I am not a medical doctor, but I am going to share what we were told. In Ryleigh’s case, her toe-walking is affecting both her feet. She is truly unable to walk flat-footed due to her Achilles tendon being too tight. Like with anything else in the body, one thing will start to affect the next. If she doesn’t get her Achilles tendon corrected, she will soon start having pain in her knees, and hips, and can even go up her back.
Reminder after reminder.
We are constantly having to remind her, “Stop walking on your toes!”. This only agitates her, and she refuses to stretch or do anything to help with this bad habit. At the end of her appointment this past December with Dr. Faust (re-checking her broken wrist), we asked him to check out her feet since she is a toe walker.
Y’all, she is unable to flatten her feet. Her Achilles tendon is that tight. He pressed as hard as he could to get her feet straightened out, but it was not going far. We were given a few options. These are the options he shared with us:
- Physical Therapy: to stretch out her Achilles and get her to walk heel-to-toe
- Botox: a temporary fix. It would be administered every 3 months. During these 3 months, lots of stretching to hopefully make progress before the botox wears off.
- Casts: a cast is placed on the foot going all the way up to the knee. The foot is pressed as flat as it can possibly go, and the cast is applied. Every 2 weeks, a new cast will be put on. This is another means of stretching the Achilles.
- Lastly, surgery. This surgery is not an easy one either. It is basically a last resort. The Z-Lengthening surgery requires the Achilles tendon to be exposed, followed by a Z-shaped incision being cut into the tendon. The Z-shaped incision will stretch and grow longer as the tendon is stretched. A cast will be applied from the foot all the way above the knee, which will be worn for at least 6 weeks. Another 6 weeks of physical therapy to gain strength back and be able to walk. We were told it would be approximately a 3-month recovery.
As of right now, we are going the physical therapy route. She has physical therapy for 1 hour twice a week. Some days she will get needling done at the end of her physical therapy. We are hopeful that the physical therapy will help correct the damage that has been done from toe walking and no surgery will be needed! She also sleeps in a boot made for Achilles tendon stretching. She switches feet every other night.
Lastly, the time frame is dependent on the situation and age of your child. With Ryleigh being 11, we knew that she was getting to the age where we need to truly be proactive. By the time she is 15, the damage is much greater meaning a lot more work will be required or surgery. We are giving her 6 months of physical therapy to see if any improvement has been made. Then we will reassess at 1 year. It isn’t a dire need if there is no pain, but you also don’t want to wait for it to continue to get worse.
Being proactive is our main focus right now. Hopefully, it will prevent surgery down the road!