Heel Toe Gait Pattern and Development in Children

Smooth Heel-to-toe Walking in Toddlers

Better gait development in children usually takes place after they cross the 6-month-old mark. Toddlers also tend to hold their hands at the sides as opposed to straight out. They move their feet closer together too. These developments ultimately lead to heel-to-toe walking.

Walking heel to toe takes practice. During the transition period, your little one will take a few spills. Don’t worry; it’s all part of the learning experience. While you cannot protect him from every fall, you can definitely help by identifying gait problems that can make heel-to-toe walking difficult. Learn how to recognise them and know when to seek professional help.

Identifying Abnormal Gait in Children

1. In-toeing

A twist in the tibia is called an internal tibial torsion. This results when the leg bone is between the ankle and the knee. For some toddlers, the twist does not straighten enough for the feet to point outwards, and usually results in in-toeing which generally manifests in 1st year. While in-toeing in toddlers is fairly common, you might notice it only when your little one starts walking.

2. Out-toeing

Out-toeing in toddlers is another cause for abnormal gait. If your toddler’s toes point out at an abnormal angle, it could be out-toeing. The condition is not painful and will not hamper your toddler’s ability to lead a healthy life. Unlike in-toeing, it affects both feet at once. If your toddler does show discomfort while walking, you should visit the doctor.

3. Trendelenburg Gait

This condition is the result of weak hip abductors. If your toddler is affected by it, you’ll notice his hips, feet and knees rotate externally. When there’s an overexertion on one leg, the other part of the pelvis drops instead of being raised. This could cause some pain. If it becomes too much, it’s wise to consult a doctor.

4. Clumsy Gait

Gait problems in children may also be caused by clumsy gait. It’s a condition that arises due to issues with motor co-ordination. If affected by it, your little one could display a difficulty with gross and fine motor skills. Symptoms may include frequent falls, difficulties associated with getting dressed or eating, as well as poor writing skills.

5. Antalgic Gait

Antalgic gait may be another cause for poor heel-to-toe gait pattern. Here, a toddler may try to avoid putting his body weight on one leg to avoid causing pain. Some of the causes associated with the condition are foot injury and juvenile arthritis.

6. Peg Leg

A peg leg is caused by excess hip abduction as your toddler walks. It can be a result of having one leg longer than the other, or it may be caused by head injury or inflammatory arthritis. A doctor will be able to diagnose the cause.

A mature gait pattern in toddlers develops over time. However, the transition from heel to toe might not always be smooth. If you see that your child’s gait isn’t improving, do consult a doctor. In the meantime, encourage him to practice heel-to-toe walking. Applaud him when he manages to successfully walk. If he does display discomfort or pain, let him rest.

How has learning to walk heel-to-toe been for your toddler? Has he been diagnosed with any gait problems? Let us know.

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