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J Pediatr Orthop. 2008 Apr-May;28(3):352-8. doi: 10.1097/BPO.0b013e318168d996.

Idiopathic toe walking: a kinematic and kinetic profile.

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  • 1Shriners Hospitals for Children, 950 W Faris Rd, Greenville, SC 29605, USA.



The differential diagnosis in children who walk on their toes includes mild spastic diplegia and idiopathic toe walking (ITW). A diagnosis of ITW is often one of exclusion. To better characterize the diagnosis of ITW, quantitative gait analysis was utilized in a series of patients with an established diagnosis of ITW.


Patients with an established diagnosis of ITW were analyzed by quantitative gait analysis. Data were recorded as each subject walked in a self-selected toe-walking pattern. The subject was then asked to ambulate making every effort to walk in a normal heel-toe reciprocating fashion. Data were collected to determine if this group of idiopathic toe walkers was able to normalize their gait. Datasets were compared with each other and with historical normal controls.


Fifty-one neurologically normal children (102 extremities) with ITW were studied in the Motion Analysis Laboratory at a mean age of 9.3 years. In the self-selected trials, significant deviations in both kinematics and kinetics at the level of the ankle were identified. Disruption of all 3 ankle rockers and a plantar flexion bias of the ankle throughout the gait cycle were most commonly seen. When asked to attempt a normal heel-toe gait, 17% of the children were able to normalize both stance and swing variables. In addition, 70% were able to normalize some but not all of the stance and swing variables.


Quantitative gait analysis is an effective tool for differentiating mild cerebral palsy from ITW. Kinematic and kinetic distinctions between the diagnoses are evident at the knee and ankle. The ability to normalize on demand at least some of the kinematic and kinetic variables associated with toe walking is seen in most children with ITW.

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