toe walking advantage

FavoriteSon is FAST. I mean REALLY fast. Check out the photos on Pragmatic Commotion in the post “that’s what I’m TALKIN’ about!“. (I take better photos when I’m not screaming “GO! RUN!! RUN!! RUN!!! THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT!!!!” I should probably also look through the lens instead of directly at the field.)

While I am hugely proud of him, I must be honest. He’s got an advantage.

Idiopathic toe walking.

There are a few causes for toe walking, including autism and cerebral palsy, but in this case, FavoriteSon gets it from his dad. The physical condition is caused by tight/short heel cords (Achilles tendon). FirstHusband doesn’t walk on his toes anymore, and we always figured FavoriteSon would also outgrow it. And he has, somewhat.

A few years ago, when he was 9, he had a few months of physical therapy and it really helped. After years of toe walking, his body had adjusted and his hip flexors were tight also. So when he stood on what we, in our family, call “regular feet” with his heels on the floor, he was bent forward at the waist at about a 45 degree angle. As he went back up on his toes, he stood straight and tall. We had been monitoring the condition since he began walking and he always hated going to the pediatrician because he would be asked to walk on his heels and it was very uncomfortable. His condition had remained fairly constant until he went through a growth spurt at around 9 years old. When he dropped to his heels and bent over at a 45 degree angle, we determined he needed to see a specialist. The specialist first recommended physical therapy and if that failed, possibly surgery. When the doctor explained that the surgery would involve poking lots and lots of holes in the muscle and then wearing braces on his legs as the muscle healed, FavoriteSon decided he did NOT want surgery. Thankfully, the physical therapy made a huge difference. It was hard work. And it was very uncomfortable. And he complained. But after a few months, he bent forward at about a TEN degree angle when he dropped down onto his heels. A ten degree angle wasn’t enough to warrant surgery. FavoriteSon was VERY happy. And he knew exactly what he had to do when he went through another growth spurt. He had to stretch those muscles to catch up with the bone growth.

This is the winning stretch for him:

And how is he now? Walking on your toes for 13 years makes for some strong calves. And running without putting your heel down first? Makes for some FAST sprinting. So the boy can SPRINT. Sustained running? no. He can’t run much farther than a mile at a time without his heel cords “burning” as he puts it. So, he runs track, not cross country. And he HATES jogging. I was talking with a friend (who is a runner) about his condition and she said, “OH! So he’s already up there!” Yes. He’s always up there.

I can pick him out in a crowd or across a football field because I can recognize his gait. He still walks on his toes, but only slightly. And he can stand heels down without bending over at the waist.

His biggest problem now? His nickname on the football field. “Prancer.” pshhh. A fat man in a red suit can catch “Prancer.” Don’t be calling him Prancer when I’m in earshot. I protect my young.

4 thoughts on “toe walking advantage

  1. Prancer. LOL I won’t call him that, promise.

    I have never heard of this condition but I can see why standing at a 45degree angle isn’t the best thing. Bravo to your son for going through painful therapy and for being a star on the field!

  2. Bless his heart, I’m glad he was able to stick it out through some tough physical therapy to prevent surgery. Neither choice was easy or pain-free, but glad he was able to avoid invasive measures. Brave boy!

  3. Thanks for posting this about your son’s experience with toe walking. My son is 6 1/2 years old and we have recently been contemplating heel cord surgery for his severe toe walking. He does not have cp or autism. We were thinking of trying physical therapy “again” now that he is a bit older, but weren’t sure what to do. If you have any more insight on your experience with physical therapy and what type of exercises they did, I would appriciate your thoughts. Thanks 🙂

  4. I am wondering if the author of this article would mind responding. My 11 1/2 year old son is being recommended for the surgery-different than the hole poking, it is a “z-cut” type surgery. A big factor is X-rays that show an altering of bone growth due to the tight cords. We are really struggling with this decision and would love any input.

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