Children walking on their toes instead of with a typical gait, without evidence of an underlying medical condition, are defined as idiopathic toe-walkers. The prevalence of idiopathic toe-walking is unknown.
A cross-sectional prevalence study of 5.5-year-old children (n = 1436) living in Blekinge County, Sweden, was performed at the regular 5.5-year visit to the local child welfare center. Children were assessed for a history of toe-walking or whether they still walked on their toes. Additionally, all 5.5-year-old children (n = 35) admitted to the clinic for children with special needs in the county were assessed.
Of the 1436 children in the cohort (750 boys, 686 girls), 30 children (2.1%, 20 boys and 10 girls) still walked on their toes at age 5.5 years and were considered as active toe-walkers. Forty children (2.8%, 22 boys and 18 girls) had previously walked on their toes but had stopped before the 5.5-year visit and were considered as inactive toe-walkers. At age 5.5 years, the total prevalence of toe-walking was 70 (4.9%) of 1436. For children with a neuropsychiatric diagnosis or developmental delay, the total prevalence for active or inactive toe-walking was 7 (41.2%) of 17.
This study establishes the prevalence and- early spontaneous course of idiopathic toe-walking in 5.5-year-old children. At this age, more than half of the children have spontaneously ceased to walk on their toes. The study confirms earlier findings that toe-walking has a high prevalence among children with a cognitive disorder.