Club foot is a deformity of the foot and ankle that is present at birth (congenital). If it is treated early, the position and function of the foot can be greatly improved.
In a baby born with club foot, the foot points down and inwards with deep inner and heel creases, and the soles of the feet face backwards.
What causes club foot?
In most cases the cause of club foot is unknown. There is evidence of a genetic link, but no other causes have been confirmed.
If you have one child with clubfoot then your risk of having a second child affected is one in 35.
Club foot affects one baby in every 1,000 born in the UK and is one of the most common congenital abnormalities.
Boys are twice as likely to be affected as girls and around half of the children born with club foot will have both feet affected.
Treatment for club foot should ideally start within a week or two of the baby being born, but can still be effective if started much later.
A treatment technique known as the Ponseti method is the main treatment for club foot, which involves your baby's foot being gently manipulated into position and put in a cast. The gentle manipulation involves gradually stretching out the ligaments and reshaping the bones of the foot, until the foot is in a normal position.
This is repeated weekly for an average of five weeks, but shouldn't take longer than eight weeks.
After this series of casts, it is likely your baby will need a small, quick procedure called an Achilles tendon tenotomy, usually performed under local anaesthetic. This allows the foot a more normal range of movement. The tendon takes two to three weeks to heal in a plaster.
After this, your baby will need to wear special boots attached to a bar. These are only worn full time for the first three months, then overnight until your child is at least four years old. During the day, your child can wear normal footwear and should start to walk and run at the same time as any other child.
Although the Ponseti method can be a time-consuming process to go through, it is not painful and in around 95% of cases it is an effective method of treating babies with club foot. It is important to stick to the treatment, particularly the use of the boots and bar, to prevent club foot re-occurring.
Your child’s condition will be regularly reviewed in case they have a relapse and require further treatment.
Evidence shows that effective treatment with the Ponseti method can ensure a child with clubfoot will have pain-free, normal looking feet that function well.
However, there are a small number of children with clubfoot that cannot be fully treated with the Ponseti Method. This can be due to other underlying conditions which make treatment more challenging. Some children will require further surgery which have a less successful outcome.
Read more about treating club foot.