What is Clubfoot?

Clubfoot can affect one or both feet. It is a congenital defect (meaning present at birth). It is a common defect that is often discovered and diagnosed in an otherwise healthy baby. The condition appears twice as often in boys than girls.

Clubfoot may be congenital, syndromic, or positional:

  • Congenital clubfoot affects tendons, blood vessels, muscles, and bones in and around the affected foot. Because the tendons are shorter than normal, the baby’s foot position is rigid.
  • Syndromic means that may be associated with another medical condition (such as spina bifida) that comes with other limb or genetic problems.
  • Positional clubfoot is usually due to the baby’s position in the uterus (womb). Even though the baby’s foot is twisted, the foot is usually flexible and can be moved into a neutral position.

If clubfoot isn’t treated in childhood, it can cause walking and mobility problems later on. Typically, treatments that don’t require surgery will be tried first, even if the deformity is extreme. With treatment, your child may have slightly limited mobility, a smaller shoe size on the affected foot, and calf muscles that are smaller on the affected side.

Symptoms

Clubfoot may affect the foot, ankle, and leg in the following ways:

The foot may:

  • Be twisted downward and inward. This increases the arch and turns the heel of the foot inward.
  • Be twisted so severely that it appears upside down.
  • Appear short and broad. It may be up to 1 inch shorter than the other foot.
  • Calf muscles are often smaller and more undeveloped than in a normal leg.
  • The Achilles tendon is tight and the heel may appear to be narrower.

Although clubfoot may look uncomfortable, it isn’t painful. It typically doesn’t cause any problems until a baby is ready to start standing up and walking and is not able to walk normally on the soles of the feet.

Causes

Clubfoot may be due to a genetic (inherited) condition, a developmental issue, or an environmental issue. Children with a family history of clubfoot are more likely to have it and it is twice as more likely to happen to boys than to girls. It can also be caused by:

  • The position of the baby in the uterus
  • A lack of amniotic fluid surrounding the baby in the uterus
  • A pregnancy with multiple births (such as twins or triplets)
  • A medical condition, such as cerebral palsy and spina bifida

Children with clubfoot are more likely to be born with dysplasia of the hip. This is when the hip socket is too shallow, so the top of the thigh bone slips in and out of the joint.

When to See a Doctor

Clubfoot is usually diagnosed during the initial examination right after your baby is born. The doctor will advise you on the best treatment or refer you to a pediatric orthopedist, who specializes in treating bone and muscle problems in children.

Diagnosis & Tests

Clubfoot is usually spotted immediately after delivery. To correctly identify clubfoot, the doctor may ask about:
  • Your pregnancy
  • Your family medical history
  • If any other family members had clubfoot

X-rays of the baby’s foot may be needed to check for any additional problems. If clubfoot is not diagnosed until your child is older, your child’s doctor or healthcare provider will want to know about your child’s developmental milestones, since clubfoot can occur with nervous system disorders.

Support & Resources

March of Dimes

Clubfoot is a birth defect of the foot. Some babies have clubfoot together with other health conditions, like spina bifida.