Once babies learn to walk, parents often become worried that their gait is not ‘normal’. Walking is a complex task that takes up to 8 years to refine. During those eight years, the gait matures and changes until your child has mastered an efficient and typical adult walking pattern.
When your child first starts to walk they have a wide base of support with their legs wide apart, this can be described as a waddle gait. Due to their poor balance and stability you will notice that they walk with their hands held up above their head so that they can save themselves if they are about to fall forwards. They will put their feet down flat on the ground and walk quickly. They will also have difficulty slowing down to stop and find it difficult to change direction.
About 6 months later, their gait will be more refined and they will be walking with their arms down by their side, be able to change direction fluidly and even negotiate a change in surface. They will be achieving heel strike and making walking more efficient. Because of bone development they will still have a wide base of support and may appear to have bowed legs.
Children will then be able to start increasing their speed once they have good stability and coordination, in order to achieve a running gait pattern. Their gait continues to mature as their musculoskeletal and neurological systems grow, and as they get stronger they will be able to refine their gait pattern to achieve heel strike and toe off as in an adult walking pattern. Studies have shown that adult gait is present in children by 8 years of age. Of course they will not be walking with the same speed and step length that an adult can, but they come pretty close.
If you are worried that your child has an abnormal gait, our physiotherapists can observe and assess your child’s gait pattern and help them to achieve the optimal pattern. Contact us today on 0207 884 0374 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.