Did you ever get concerned about your little toddler walking around on his tiptoes all the time?
We used to wonder. We had one super toe walker, one non-toe walker, and one sort of in the middle. Now that we are on our fourth toddler, I have pretty much come to realize that toe walking is developmental and related to 1) self-stimulation and 2) muscle development. So you want a little, but too much or too little is a small sign that there might be a problem.
For my super toe-walker, we got a little concerned because he hit a phase where he was walking on his toes almost all the time. Compared to my medium toe-walker, my super- would walk around on his toes by default. And he didn’t grow out of it very much. My medium toe-walker went through a short phase where he seemed to be walking around on his toes a lot (as if he were excited to discover it). But a couple months later, he was only doing it when he was bored or really excited or needing to reach something. My super toe-walker had to be retaught to walk flat-footed and then constantly reminded in order to do it. Later he would go through phases where we’d have to remind him again for a time. He turned out to have a number of language issues as well as trouble imagining, self-directing, and knowing the rules of social convention.
Obviously the toe-walking didn’t CAUSE those problems, but it was a sign that he was overstimulated, possibly relating to his inability to converse or play in a higher-level way. But, he did acquire good muscle tone!
Another one of my good friends had a super-toe walker and he turned out to have an overstimulation problem, part of a sensory disintegration problem. But he had other hyper behavior, and was an unusually high-need child, whereas my own super toe walker was not. My child was high-need compared to my other children, but by three years old he was not still running all over the place all the time, getting into stuff, making weird animal noises, etc! (BTW I think tiptoe walking is especially common for boys because of higher levels of energy, stimulation needs.)
On the other hand, my non-toe walker didn’t discover the phase at all. I can’t recall seeing him walk around on his toes much… maybe he didn’t at all. He is now my sensory-disordered kid who has very low muscle tone, trouble reaching or extending his body, slight balance problems, and a hyposensitive (understimulation) problem.
Obviously the toe-walking (lack of it) didn’t cause that either, but it was a sign.
So look for a balance. Somewhere around 15-30 months the toe-walking starts, and it can seem a little overboard or strange… especially for boys because it looks kind of silly or even girly. It will stay strong for awhile but should begin to abate over the next year. Directed activity is sometimes the remedy if you sense your child is overstimulated. If you sense that the toe-walking is becoming stronger, like the child’s default pattern—and especially if other unusual symptoms accompany the tiptoes (repetitive movements with the fingers/hands, or perhaps talking to oneself), then get it checked out by an occupational therapist. Early Intervention can catch it if the child is under 3, but I wouldn’t necessarily call for professional help before the child was 3 years old unless other symptoms were present and disturbing. And on the other hand, if you don’t see tiptoe walking at all by the time the child is four, consider encouraging it or beginning leg muscle exercises to work on muscle tone and balancing skills.