Clumsy Walking In Kids

Noticing your child walking with a clumsy or uncoordinated gait can garner different responses from different parents. While some put it down to a stage of “not looking where they’re going” or being distracted, others are concerned that it could be indicative of an underlying issue and that their kids could need some professional care. With clumsy walking potentially posing a risk to kids in terms of regular or repeated injuries, this is a relatively common concern that presents across our podiatry clinics in Brisbane City and Newmarket. 

What Does Clumsy Walking In Kids Indicate?

When children are walking with a clumsy gait, it may indicate several things:

  • That their fine or gross motor skills may not yet be fully developed
  • They may not have gained proper control or confidence in their walking
  • That there’s an issue interfering with their coordination, balance or proprioception
  • That there’s a nerve or motor issue that may be playing a role in their altered gait 
  • They may be going through a growth support, which can lead to a temporary period of increased clumsiness
  • They may have sensory processing issues
  • They may have undiagnosed vision problems
  • They may have sustained an injury that is affecting their walking but haven’t communicated it yet
  • That they may just be distracted, or not performing simple movements like lifting the foot to adequately clear the ground during walking for non-pathological reasons, like if a certain walking style has become a habit after using it in a game 

What Are The Symptoms Of Clumsy Walking In Kids?

Clumsy walking can look like:

  • Frequent tripping, stumbling, or falling while walking or running
  • Difficulty maintaining balance, especially on uneven surfaces or while changing direction
  • Awkward or jerky movements while walking
  • Poor coordination, such as difficulty with activities that require precise movements, like hopping or skipping
  • Tendency to walk with feet turned inward or outward
  • Lack of fluidity in movements or a stiff gait

If a child’s clumsy gait is related to problems with their motor skills, coordination, vision disturbances and other factors, you may also see them struggle with other aspects of their days - such as throwing, catching and kicking a ball, and getting dressed.

What Causes Clumsy Walking In Children?

 Aside from the normal, developmentally-appropriate causes of clumsy walking in kids as they develop their motor skills and learn the process of balancing and succinctly coordinating their movements, pathological causes may include:

  • Muscle weakness: underlying issues with muscle tone and strength can contribute to clumsy walking. Hypotonia is the name given to having lower muscle tone that can affect a person’s ability to walk and perform daily activities, and it can be a symptom of many conditions ranging from muscular dystrophy to nerve-related conditions (like cerebral palsy) to metabolic disorders and more.
  • Developmental coordination disorder (dyspraxia): this is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by difficulties with motor coordination and planning, resulting from the brain having difficulty planning how to carry out a movement task, despite having adequate nerve function and muscle strength.
  • Foot or leg ailments: both growth spurts, as well as injuries or problems with the biomechanics of the feet and legs can also contribute to clumsy gait. Examples include having a leg length difference where one of the legs must make notable compensations when a child is walking.
  • Sensory processing issues: difficulties with sensory processing, such as problems with balance or proprioception, can affect a child's walking abilities. Conditions like sensory processing disorder or certain types of autism spectrum disorder may be associated with clumsy walking.
  • Vision problems: poor vision, including issues with depth perception or clarity, can impact a child's ability to walk and navigate their environment effectively.

What Are The Risk Factors Of Clumsy Walking For Children?

If your child is experiencing some early developmental delays, such as not reaching their sitting, crawling or walking milestones, then they may be more likely to experience clumsy walking. They may also be more likely if there is a family history of motor coordination difficulties.

Diagnosing Clumsy Walking In Kids

Diagnosing a clumsy gait pattern can be done by our experienced podiatrists at our clinics. It involves getting a detailed medical history and then completing a child-friendly gait assessment, as well as looking at muscle strength, the range of motion at the joints, your child’s foot posture and several other factors. 

While a diagnosis is one thing, it’s most important to also understand the underlying cause of the clumsy walking in order to create an effective management plan. In some cases, this is where more testing may be needed, particularly if neurological issues are suspected. We’ll always let you know exactly which tests we’re doing and why, and refer you appropriately for additional testing or to other health professionals as needed.

What Are The Treatment Options For Clumsy Walking In Kids?

The best way to manage clumsy walking in your child will depend entirely on any underlying issues and causes we identify. In some cases, where clumsy walking is suspected to be related to your child still being in an early stage of growth or development, we may simply recommend monitoring to check that the clumsiness self-resolves, to help avoid any unnecessary treatment. Where treatment is indicated, we may use several treatments to help with specific issues such as:

  • The Surestep SMO: the Surestep supramalleolar orthoses (SMO) is a revolutionary treatment for children that are exhibiting a clumsy gait pattern due to having low muscle tone. Surestep is a customised, 3D-scanned brace that sits over the foot and ankle and uses compression to help children with stability, balance and a more ‘natural’ walking pattern. We greatly recommend this brace due to its ability to support children to develop their gait development and gross motor skills  without being held back and restricted in any way. It also has a colourful, slimline design that children love and adapt very quickly to.
  • Physical therapy: where muscular factors are involved that affect strength, coordination and balance, a series of age-appropriate, child-friendly activities and exercises can help support their progress.
  • Custom foot orthotics: in some cases, like where a clumsy gait is due to notable in-toeing on one foot, as well as with several other conditions, custom foot orthotics can help these issues through their customised, purposeful designs.
  • Footwear modifications: for some conditions, like having a leg length difference, footwear modifications can be extremely useful in helping support a more natural, balanced gait
  • Gait retraining: it may also be useful to work with your child to improve their motor patterns and habits around walking, especially if non-pathological ‘habits’ are getting in their way

Outside of the field of podiatry, depending on the underlying causes, your child may also benefit from the care of other areas of medicine such as vision assessments and occupational therapy.

What Happens If You Ignore Clumsy Walking Symptoms?

If the underlying cause is pathological then ignoring clumsy walking symptoms may lead to ongoing difficulties with motor skills, coordination, and balance. It can affect a child's ability to participate in physical activities, potentially impacting their self-confidence and overall development. If you’re concerned, we’re concerned.

How Can You Prevent And Reduce The Risk Of Your Child Developing Clumsy Walking?

While the nature of many causes of clumsy walking cannot be prevented and may be linked to a condition or issue present from a very early age, we recommend:

  • Encourage physical activity: engage your child in activities that promote physical development, coordination, and balance, such as climbing, running, jumping, and playing sports.
  • Provide a safe environment: ensure the surroundings are free of hazards to minimise the risk of falls or injuries.
  • Promote healthy lifestyle habits: encourage a balanced diet, adequate sleep, and overall good health, as these factors can contribute to optimal motor development.

When Should You See A Podiatrist For Clumsy Walking Treatment?

If you’ve noticed a clumsy walking pattern present for some time, such as exceeding two weeks (as we’d expect minor bruising from an injury that may alter a gait pattern to have healed well before then), or you’re feeling concerned, we highly recommend bringing your child in to be assessed. The earlier we see them, the earlier we can begin their care and ensure that their gait is not interfering with daily life and their ability to participate and enjoy their favourite activities.



Monday 7:30am - 6:30pm
Tuesday 7:30am - 6:00pm
Wednesday 7:30am - 6:30pm
7:30am - 6:00pm
Saturday CLOSED

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