Clumsy Walking In Kids

Noticing an awkward or clumsy gait pattern in your child is concerning for any parent, especially with many unknowns as to what is and isn’t normal for what age range in kids. While toddlers are well known to have regular slips, falls and being thrown off balance as they are constantly learning to use their bodies in new ways, repetitive clumsiness in some children may also be a sign of an underlying problem, linked to everything from their muscle tone to problems with their vision or depth perception. 

What Is Considered To Be ‘Clumsy’?

It can be difficult to a parent to discern between what is ‘clumsy’, and what may be your child working on their balance or coordination skills - or even playing a game with themselves where they sporadically walk on their toes, or try to walk on the outside edges of their feet, or making exaggerate side-to-side swaying motions. Children are curious and adventurous, and we want to help them stay this way without any restrictions from their lower limbs. 

To better help discern what is and isn’t normal at what age, here are some standard development milestones according to the Centre For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) paired with Australia’s motor development chart:

  • Can pull themselves up to stand and walks holding onto the furniture at 12 months
  • Takes a few steps on their own at 15 months
  • Walks without holding onto anything or anyone and climbs on and off a couch without help at 18 months
  • Has a wide gait but walking (and for some running) is less clumsy at 18 months
  • Kicks a ball, runs and walks (not climbs) up a few stairs with or without help at 24 months
  • Walks smoothly and turns corners, picks up toys without falling over at 24 months
  • Jumps off the ground with both feet at 30 months
  • Imitates standing on one foot, climbs the jungle gym and ladders, pedals a tricycle and walks up and down the stairs while alternating feet at three years
  • Able to walk on tip-toes at three years
  • Stands on one foot for up to five seconds, kicks a ball forwards, runs around obstacles, able to walk on a line, and jumps over an object and lands with both feet together at four years
  • Hops on one foot at five years
  • Walks up stairs while holding an object, walks backwards toe-to-heel, jumps forwards ten times without falling, skips forwards after demonstrations, and steps forward with leg as same side as throwing arm when throwing a ball at five years
  • Runs lightly on toes, can walk on a balance beam, able to skip with skipping rope, can cover two metres when hoping and has mature (refined) jumping skills by six years

When kids remain clumsy or unbalanced, or do not meet their developmental milestones, it indicates to our podiatry team that there could be an underlying issue contributing to the clumsiness - though it’s important to note that there could be other causes too.

If your child is regularly falling and getting hurt as a result of their gait, this is a sign that it is worthwhile to bring them in for an assessment with our podiatry team in Brisbane. Other signs include:

  • Your child’s feet are constantly scraping along the ground, and you may have noticed uneven shoe wear patterns because of it
  • Your child cannot keep up with their peers in school or kindy when running
  • Your child complains of foot or leg aches or fatigue
  • You notice your child is unwilling to participate in sports or physical activity and suspect they may be masking pain or other problems

Why Is My Child’s Walking So Clumsy?

There are a wide variety of reasons that can lead to a clumsy gait appearance - some may be linked to normal stages of growth like early in-toeing or out-toeing that may correct itself with time. Some may be ‘phases’ of a certain walking style that will pass. Other reasons may be more problematic and may warrant treatment with your podiatrist. Some examples of this include:

  • Hypotonia: reduced muscle tone
  • Favouring one side of the body (there may be a musculoskeletal or neurological cause behind this)
  • In-toeing beyond the age of five years old
  • Balance, stability and coordination issues: these could be related to hip weakness, or something else
  • Leg length differences
  • Juvenile idiopathic arthritis
  • Foot drop
  • Tight Achilles tendon
  • Muscle contractures
  • They may have an undetected pain or injury
  • Dyspraxia: a developmental coordination disorder affecting the fine or gross motor skills
  • Neurological problems e.g. Cerebral Palsy

Managing A Clumsy Gait

The first step to managing a clumsy gait is understanding why it is happening. We uncover this by performing a comprehensive yet fun, child-friendly assessment to gain a better insight into the child’s history, gait pattern, muscle strength, flexibility, balance, coordination and more. We also ask other important questions, like whether your child has had their hearing and eyesight checked recently, both of which can affect their balance. 

Based on the results, your podiatrist will construct a unique and child-friendly management plan. We understand how important it is for children to be able to play, adventure, move independently and socialise with their peers - your children’s health and wellbeing is our priority. We have a wide range of treatment options for children depending on what our assessment uncovers, which may include:

  • Good, supportive footwear - to ensure their shoes are doing the best job of supporting their stability and balance, and not exacerbating the problem they may have. We look at all aspects of footwear including their weight, which can be a big factor in children with muscle weakness where the shoe ‘weighs down’ their feet.
  • Custom foot orthotics - orthotics (insoles) can be used in a wide range of ways to support the structure and function of the foot while optimising comfort. This can range from using selective padding or support for a specific purpose like offloading a painful joint, to creating a gait plate style orthotic to help correct in-toeing.
  • Stretching and strengthening program - to address a wide range of problems from a tight Achilles tendon to muscle imbalances or weaknesses that may contribute to the development of pains and a clumsy gait
  • Foot mobilisation - in some cases, we pay use purposeful hands-on movement to help improve joint alignment, release tension and support efficient foot and leg function
  • Ankle-foot orthotics or bracing - in some cases, your child may benefit from ankle-foot orthotics to help with neurological problems, foot drop, general muscle weakness, instability and more. In milder cases, bracing may also be used.



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Tuesday 7:30am - 6:00pm
Wednesday 7:30am - 6:30pm
7:30am - 6:00pm
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Ground Floor, 344 Queen Street,
Brisbane City QLD 4000



Monday 7:30am - 6:00pm
Tuesday 7:30am - 6:00pm
Wednesday 7:30am - 6:00pm
7:30am - 6:30pm
Friday 7:30am - 5:30pm
Saturday 7:30am - 4:30pm

Newmarket Village, 114/400 Newmarket Rd, Newmarket QLD 4051