Bone, Joint and Muscle Conditions


What Is Clubfoot?


Clubfoot. Photo by Vincent S. Mosca, MD.

Clubfoot is when babies are born with one foot or both feet pointing down and in. Their toes point toward the opposite leg, and the bottom of their feet face inward. In some cases, it looks like the baby's foot is upside down.

A clubfoot cannot be straightened simply by moving it around. The joints and tendons on the inside and back of the foot and ankle are shorter than usual while those on the outside and front are stretched out, holding the baby's foot in this unusual position.

Clubfoot does not get better on its own. If it is not treated, it can cause discomfort and make your child's foot function poorly as they grow up. But with treatment, there is an excellent chance that your baby's foot will look good and function very well.

Clubfoot in Children

About one in every 1,000 babies is born with clubfoot. Clubfoot does not have anything to do with the baby's position in the womb. It is mostly a problem passed from parents to children (genetic), and it may run in families.

If you have one baby with clubfoot, the chances of having a second child with the condition are about one in 40.

About half of children with the condition have two clubfeet. Children with certain neurological and chromosome conditions are more likely to have clubfoot. Most times children who have clubfoot are otherwise completely healthy.

Clubfoot at Seattle Children's

Clubfoot is one of the conditions treated by the experts in our Foot and Ankle Deformities Program.

For decades, orthopedic surgeons at Seattle Children's have treated more children with clubfeet than any other center in the Northwest. As techniques to treat the problem have changed, we have been at the forefront in learning, implementing and promoting the latest advances.

Dr. Ignacio Ponseti developed the Ponseti treatment method for clubfeet at the University of Iowa more than 60 years ago. This method corrects most clubfeet without major surgery, a big change from treatment methods that were common at the time of Dr. Ponseti's initial work.

The method's long-term effectiveness was proven about a decade ago. Since then, it has become the leading treatment for clubfoot around the world.

Our doctors were among the first outside of Iowa to learn the method directly from Dr. Ponseti. We were the first in the Northwest to offer the Ponseti method for clubfoot treatment. We are listed as approved practitioners.

In addition, we have been leaders in teaching the technique to other orthopedic surgeons at national and international conferences as well as through publications.

To read more about the Ponseti method, visit Global-HELP, a nonprofit medical literature publishing foundation started by the former director of our Department of Orthopedics, Dr. Lynn T. Staheli.