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Recently I was introduced to jogging. As a side effect I adopted a toe-contacts-first walking style. The heel usually contacts the ground towards the end of the step, taking up a lot of weight, but briefly. I am happy with the lack of load to my knee joint and also the firmed up calf muscles.

However, I am being warned that that toe walking wears out other joints than the knee. And can see it is a known malady.

Is it unhealthy to walk toe first?

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  • If you're concerned, you should be talking to a medical professional.
    – rrirower
    Mar 20 '20 at 15:59
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    @rrirower I am not concerned that I am ill, I am concerned that I might be developing bad habits. Thus perhaps a sports coach is far more befitting than a doctor. But I trust in this community as well.
    – Vorac
    Nov 24 '20 at 10:02
  • Not an answer, but I alternate between toe walking and heel strike walking. When I'm walking slowly, I'll walk on my toes, have been since I was a child. The only issue I've ever had from it was when I put on weight, I started to get some pains in the arch of my foot as it was under more strain, but as my feet got stronger, the pain went away.
    – Dark Hippo
    Feb 25 at 8:35
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TLDR: Toe walking is likely not "unhealthy".

There is a study that classifies Idiopathic Toe Walking in children as a cosmetic deformity. It also briefly mentions adult toe walking.

"Anecdotally, adult toe walkers have a “bouncing” or “mincing” gait with less than normal heel contact during stance phase. Whether this results in any problems is unknown. The adult foot and ankle surgeons at our institution do not see patients with forefoot or midfoot problems or Achilles tendonitis with a history of persistent childhood ITW. It is quite possible that it is a physiologically benign condition. Evidence to the contrary is lacking."

There are a few things that you should consider as possible side effects to voluntarily choosing to toe walk.

Higher energy expenditure

  • This study explores energy expenditure for different foot positions while walking. It found that walking on your toes does cost significantly more energy, 53-83%, low-digitigrade and high-digitigrade respectively (walking low or higher on your toes). Really fascinating study that I would recommend reading, if you are interested.

Decreased balance and therefore an increased chance to fall.

  • This common argument makes sense intuitively due to lower surface area contact. However, even though ITW is commonly associated with this, there doesn't seem to be data backing up the claim that it causes decreased balance. Lessened balance could simply be a side effect that occurs in tandem with conditions such as muscular dystrophy, which are also associated with ITW.

Shorter Achilles Tendons have been associated with ITW

  • What came first, the chicken or the egg? Is it the loss of range of motion that causes someone to toe walk, or is it toe walking that causes the loss of range of motion?

  • How toe walking might cause a shorter Achilles Tendon, IF this claim has any validity. Disuse Syndrome is basically described by "Use it or lose it." Our bodies are great at adapting to change, and if it doesn't think that it needs to allocate resources for something, it will stop doing so.

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