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Prevent Toe Walking With These 5 Easy Tips and Tricks

June 14, 2018
Prevent Toe Walking: 5 Easy tips and tricks starting in the first month- everythingbabies.org

Ask The Baby Expert Question Number #24:

“How do I prevent toe walking?”


It seems like parents questions and conversations around town cluster by topic.  Lately, I’ve been hearing this one a lot, “How do I prevent my baby from being a toe walker?”

“My doctor said my preemie is at risk of toe walking and I should avoid using walkers and jumpers. Now I’m worried! What else can I do?!?!”

You are in the right place, dear readers! Especially you PREEMIE PARENTS!


A quick note – toe walking risks factors

Preemies and low birth weight (IUGR) babies are at higher risk of being toe walkers. So are babies with increased muscles tone (hypertonicity) or stiffness in their legs. And for some full-term, healthy babies, even the excessive use of “suspension containers”–like jumperoos, walkers, and exersaucers– can delay motor development and increase a baby’s risk of being a toe walker later on.

If this is new to you, please read this post first to get more background info about toe walking

“Toe Walking: Truths, myths and when to be concerned”



*These tips and tricks are designed to be done throughout the first year before they begin pulling up to standing or cruising on their own.


ONE- stretch their feet!

This is great to start a few weeks after you bring baby home, especially if they are a preemie or low birth weight baby. Smaller babies aren’t as cramped in the womb as larger, full-term babies in the last few weeks of gestation, so they don’t get the constant pressure on the bottoms of their feet which stretches the heel cords (AKA calves or Achilles’ tendons).

*If your baby’s ankles flex so much that the tops of their feet touch their shins, you don’t need to “stretch” them routinely. Just check their flexibility about once a week to make sure nothing changes. Then move on the next trick – standing with flat feet. 

Tip: make sure you contact the full surface of the foot when applying pressure or stretching. If you just press on the toes or the ball of the foot, you will accidentally activate the calf muscles, causing the toes to point or the leg to stiffen.

Check out this video on varies activities you can do with your baby to help stretch their heel cords!


TWO – Help your baby stay flat-footed when bearing weight on their legs

This is where you can really prevent toe walking or (perpetuate it) without even knowing it!

When your baby is standing on your lap or pulls to stand when you are holding on to their hands, you should check their feet frequently. If the feet are not flat or fully in contact with the surface, you need to adjust them.

Tip: Try to avoid holding your baby up with your hands. This means that your “support” should only be for balance and safety, while the full weight of your baby’s body should be on his or her feet.

Why does this matter? I’m glad you asked! Just keep reading…


THREE – Avoid suspension devices like jumperoos and walkers

This one is so hard for parents to buy into because babies LOVE these devices! They really can provide hours of fun for baby and hands-free time for you!

So what’s wrong with them? I’ll keep it simple and to the point of preventing toe walking…

Containers that “suspend” your baby artificially by providing support to other parts of their body (butt, back, belly) in addition to their feet create confusion in the neurological system.  The brain is tricked into thinking that the butt or trunk can support the body weight so the feet are free to dance and bounce with wild abandon!

In all seriousness, this is where these devices can really wreak havoc on motor development.  The brain is already pre-wired to go through a specific sequence of motor skills and milestones, each one leading to the next. From the time the baby leaves the womb, human baby brains and muscles have to figure out how to coordinate against gravity to ultimately become independent walking and running on only two feet! If a baby spends excessive amounts of time in sitting or suspension devices, the normal progression of development can get off track.

But when a baby is partially supported and only his toes and the balls of his feet touch the floor, this actually sets off a newborn reflex to bounce on the toes. Since we all know that we have better balance and stability and walking skills if we stand on flat feet, you can see how this causes a problem. The more the baby stands or bounces on the toes, the more ingrained the new (but abnormal) motor pattern becomes in the brain. If a baby spends significantly less time on flat feet than tiptoes, they will soon adopt the tiptoe stance as the primary way of standing and walking.

FOUR – Don’t rush their development and please don’t skip tummy time or crawling on all fours!

As mentioned in the previous section, humans development is pre-determined and we don’t need to interfere except when a baby is born with physical differences or starts to fall off the normal path in the first year. Prematurity, back to sleep and baby containers are major risk factors for delays or deviations in normal development.

If you focus on tummy time from day one, limit sitting propped or in containers, and focus on crawling before walking, it will be very unlikely that your baby will be a toe walker or have problems with their physical development after they take their first steps!


FIVE – Prevent sensitivity in the feet

Expose your baby’s feet to lots of different textures, sensations, and pressures. You may have heard that “sensory processing” issues are related to toe walking. A child that is overly sensitive to different textures, sounds, lights or environments may avoid these “inputs”. When an infant or child doesn’t like to wear shoes or put their feet in the sand or grass may have “tactile defensiveness” and may adopt a toe walking strategy to avoid uncomfortable sensations on their feet.  A child that has a muted response or a high threshold to stimulus or input from the environment (AKA sensory seeker) may go up on their toes to “feel” their body working and moving better.

*Tip: Start putting shoes on your baby early, so they are accustomed to wearing them long before they have to for walking and foot protection. Alternate shoe wearing with sensory experiences like rubbing lotion with a washcloth or soft brush with firm pressure, or playing in sand or grass. How about some toe painting with pudding? Where do I sign up? 😉

Check out this post on summer sandals with good arch support and protection!

“The best summer sandals for babies and toddlers”


Easy peasy lemon squeezy, right Mommas and Papas?!?!


If your baby is already pulling to stand and won’t put her heels down at least 75% of the time, check out this video of activities you can do to help them bear weight on flat feet.

“Infant standing activities to prevent toe walking” (youtube)


If your child is already a toe walker, check out this post to determine if a physical therapy evaluation is recommended.

“Toe Walking: Truths, myths and when to be concerned”


Then read this post from Dinosaur Physical Therapy to learn about some great activities and products you can try at home to help your child get their heels on the ground!

“Toe Walking: Background and Treatment Strategies” 


Did this post spark any questions about your baby? Just leave a comment below, or schedule a FREE 30-minute video consult with me today. Send me some video of your baby standing, cruising or walking and I will give you some tips and activities to try specific to your child’s individual needs!


Ask the baby expert free 30-min call everythingbabies.org/start-here


Cheers! everythingbabies.org

Prevent Toe Walking: 5 Easy tips and tricks starting in the first month- everythingbabies.org
Prevent Toe Walking: 5 Easy tips and tricks starting in the first month- everythingbabies.org

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  • Reply Shelley Mannell August 24, 2019 at 8:33 am

    Your comment about putting shoes on early is a contradiction to providing lots of sensory input to the feet. As a pediatric physiotherapist for 35 years, my recommendation would be to provide more sensory input to the feet in short bursts as tolerated throughout the day. Hold off on shoes as long as possible. If you have concerns, get a consult with a pediatric PT or OT who specializes in babies.

    • Reply Wendy @ Everything Babies August 24, 2019 at 9:44 am

      Thank you for your comment. I am a pediatric PT of 15 years and my recommendation comes from my knowledge, training and experience working with toe walkers, understanding retained primitive reflexes and the understand of abnormal sensory processing and neurological tone. For a toe walker or a child with retained primitive reflexes (particularly the plantar and Moro reflexes), the recommendation of a solid shoe is to provide full contact support to the full plantar surface of the foot to improve the brain’s processing of sensory input and a normal weight bearing posture in response. Once the nervous system is appropriately integrated and the child is able to override the obligatory reflexive response of a synergistic extension pattern while weight bearing (from the retained reflex or abnormal tone), the child is able to stand flat-footed every time the ball of the foot touches the ground. It is then appropriate and important to vary the sensory experiences with bare feet, various surface textures like grass and sand, etc. for more mature weight bearing and dynamic balance progression. If a child is in my clinic with abnormal (low or high) tone or retained reflexes that is interfering with normal Motor development, I may recommend shoes with full contact arch support or orthotics if indicated in a case by case basis. That is not to say that I am denying them sensory input 24 hours a day, but I have to normalize the neurological response first, then progress the variety of sensory input with the expectation of a normal neurological (motoric) response once abnormal reflexes are integrated.

  • Reply Harry James October 8, 2020 at 1:39 am

    Hi there. Our baby (born 1 week overdue) is now 11 months old and has been pulling herself up to stand for a while, but always on her tip toes. So much so, that sometimes it’s over the 90 degrees so her toes are sort of folding in on themselves. Most of her weight is being held by her arms so it doesn’t look painful or anything, but she virtually never has even one flat foot.

    She’s super strong, thriving, boundless life and energy, already forming words like duck and cat. She definitely has the flexibility (or I’m pretty sure she does, her feet can definitely be in the flat position), but she’s so strong that it’s almost impossible to flatten her feet when she’s standing on them.

    We do have a bouncer and we have used it, perhaps too much, and I’m in little doubt that that’s the culprit! Never thought twice about it at the time.

    At what point do I need to worry? Should i be doing things to help flatten them? We’ve sort of been operating under a “she’ll figure it out in her own time” philosophy, but on reading that her neural pathways may not have been developing properly I’m suddenly feeling we should be more proactive.

    Any help/advice would be greatly appreciated!

    Many thanks,

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