The Plantar reflex emerges in utero and is fully present at birth. It is usually integrated at four to six months of age. The Plantar reflex is similar to the Palmar reflex in that stroking or pressing on the ball of the foot causes the foot and toes to flex, or curl, so as to grasp whatever caused the stimulus. The Plantar reflex relates to the movement and coordination of the small muscles of the foot and appears to initiate many of the gross motor movements made by the infant.
Once the child stands and walks, it is imperative that the foot has developed an appropriate extensor response to pressure on the ball of the foot to provide adequate push-off during walking. As walking relies on the perfect harmony of rhythmic muscle contractions and relaxations throughout the body, disturbances in walking pattern can contribute to recurrent microstrain injuries of any kind and can be alleviated by correcting the Plantar reflex.
If the Plantar reflex is retained, balance and walking is affected. A child may take longer learning to walk, run awkwardly, and/or demonstrate poor balance. In some young children, the toes may curl under when putting on shoes, leading to difficulty getting the foot into the shoe. Older children will often have problems with sports, such as soccer, which rely on balance and coordination whilst running. Adults often complain of lower back pain exacerbated by either walking or standing, or both. Ingrown toe nails, shin soreness and recurrent ankle twisting are also symptoms indicative of a likely retained Plantar reflex.