Toe Walker – First Follow-up

It has been three weeks since I wrote the article “Toe Walking – Not Just For Ballerinas Anymore” pertaining to toe walking in toddlers. Two office visits and more than 10 hours of exercises later, I thought I’d update you all to our progress, and perhaps get a little more conversation going around this surprisingly common subject.

First, let me say that I really like the doctors we are seeing at Children’s Memorial Hospital. They are knowledgeable, patient, and willing to crawl around on the floor walking like a bear or crab, and rolling large padded columns up and down inclines. They are also expensive, like much of our healthcare in America. Billing at slightly higher than $400 for 30 minutes of thoughtful and targeted exercise is very excessive in my opinion, but I will leave it at that for the healthcare topic. The point is that those weekly visits will not be weekly, but rather bi-weekly or even monthly depending on our feelings about Xavier’s progress. After all, the 30 minute sessions in the office aren’t going to correct the issue, our 30 minutes a day at home will, so other than to officially monitor progress or offer tips and additional exercise ideas, we will save ourselves and the (ahem) insurance company the cost of weekly $400 visits.

Xavier is progressing decently, though slow progress is to be expected. He is physically able to walk with a healthy heel-strike-first gait, a big advantage. His range of motion is normal, so whenever we remind him to “walk on flat feet” he immediately begins walking correctly…for a little while anyway. This is actually one of the more important things we have been advised to do is to constantly observe his walk, and remind him to get off his toes. It is both amusing and annoying to listen to us walk down the street having a normal conversation interrupted every couple of minutes or so with a “FLAT FEET” or “HEELS DOWN” reminder tossed the way of my little man. To his credit, he never complains, and drops his heels down every time, no questions asked.

The other important element of the treatment is the exercise routine. About 30 minutes of each day (not all at one time) we do fun little exercises to strengthen Xavier’s core muscles designed to make it easier and more natural for him to steer his balance back to his heels from his toes. Some of these exercises include:

  • Duck Walking – Stand with feet close together and bending at the knees, put hands just below each knee. Take small steps across the room or around the playground, quacking like a duck while walking. This is both the toughest exercise, but also might be the most effective according to the therapists. Done correctly, it is very difficult to do this without the body weight being centered over the heels.
  • Air Kick-Ball – Lay on back and try to grab a ball held above your chest with both feet, or instead of grabbing, just kicking is OK. Try this once yourself and it will be obvious that this is designed to strengthen the abdominal muscles making it easier to keep body weight balanced over the heels. Xavier actually thinks this one is really fun and will interrupt a regular game of kick-ball to do this exercise.
  • Squat Toy Pick-up – Stand with feet about shoulder-width apart. Keeping heels planted on the floor, squat at the knees and with both hands pick up a toy or small object placed between feet and slightly behind heels. Note that I personally have never been able to squat down with my feet flat on the floor, but can only do so on my toes with heels elevated.
  • Bear Walk – With feet as flat as possible and bending mostly at the waist (as opposed to the knees) place hands on the floor and walk across the room or around playground.
  • Crab Walk – Same concept as the Bear Walk, but with stomach and chest facing the sky as opposed to facing the floor.
  • Push Something Heavy – Push a short and reasonably heavy object along the floor keeping feet as flat as possible, or even better…
  • Pull Something Heavy – Same as above but pull while walking backward. This almost forces the heels to the floor first.
  • Superman (or woman) – Have child lay on stomach across your lap with most of upper body hanging over the side of your lap unsupported. Have the child reach for a ball or other object with both hands. The object should be held high and far enough away so that a good stretch up and out is needed to grab the object. This is designed to strengthen the lower back muscles and complements the abdominal core exercise above. The nice thing with this exercise is that you can easily touch the child’s lower back and feel it working.

There are a handful of others we have been given, but these are in the standard rotation. Xavier is showing progress, and will sometimes stand or walk on flat feet without prompting, but still has a long way to go. It is interesting to me how many people either have a child or know a child who has been through this and has had both success and a definite lack of success in correcting it, even with serial bracing. I am very hopeful our little dancer will be fine, but not without significant effort. I wish nothing but the best to anyone else who is working on the same thing, and would love to hear about your experiences as well.

Be Well!

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One Response

  1. The “Flat feet” comment cracked me up — we used to tell our daughter to “Walk on your feet!” and she’d go down on her heels, and people who heard us in public usually smiled and were probably thinking, “Isn’t she walking on her feet already?”

    Anyway, enjoying reading about the progress — sounds like he’s doing well!

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