Toe walking is a style of walking in which a child walks on the balls of his/her feet without heels touching the ground.  In our lab, we are designing an intervention technique that promotes plantar extension in children. In the case of our experiment, we are studying children aged 2-15 who have idiopathic (no known cause) toe walking. The calf is formed of two major muscle groups: the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles. If a child continues to toe walk throughout childhood, the growth of the above muscle groups are stunted, which results in issues concerning standing and balance during adulthood. Although there are methods and therapies that can be utilized to assist an adult in lengthening his/her gastrocnemius and soleus, these techniques are strenuous and require a higher degree of compliance from the patient. In comparison, using non-invasive techniques such as therapy and intervention at a young age provides a simpler method of preventative care. The two images below show the difference in gait cycles between a normally-walking individual and a toe walking individual.

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This is the Gait Real-Time Analysis Interactive Lab (GRAIL). We use a virtual reality system in order to simulate an environment for patients to interact with while walking on the treadmill. Force plates in the treadmill record various gait parameters (forces, center of pressure, heel strike, toe strike, etc.) during any given trial. In the above video, Sam is performing a heel strike walk, in which his heel strikes the ground prior to the rest of his foot. 

Here are Mckyla and Mikey programming in LUA on the Motek DFlow Simulator. They are making a program to differentiate between toe walking and heel walking by calculating the center of pressure (COP) produced during each step and analyzing the relative location of the COP in order to differentiate between heel walking and toe walking.

Mikey and Mckyla designing a game to help toe walkers with plantar flexion.


This is a toe walking patient doing his/her best heel strike in the motion capture lab:


This is a toe-walking patient toe walking at his/her normal speed:


This is a toe walking patient toe walking at 25% of his/her normal speed: