What Are "Clubbed Feet"?

First of all, we can all agree that the term could stand some updating.

Our bodies have an amazing combination of muscles, tendons and ligaments that not only help us to move, but help us to develop in the womb. When mommy feels that KICK to her bladder, that's muscles, tendons and ligaments doing their job. But muscles get their instructions from the brain via the spinal cord and nervous system. If, as in the case of SB, there is a disruption in that neural pathway, the muscles don't get their instructions and so they don't do what they are supposed to do. When that happens, the tendons and ligaments are free to do as they please.

When the tendons and ligaments in the ankle are free to do as they please, they take the path of least resistance. The feet begin to turn inward so that the arch of the foot comes up against the inside of the ankle.

Here is a photo of our daughter's feet at 2 months:

Clubbed feet does not prevent people from walking. It can be treated. Treatment involves two basic stages: 1) Straighten out the feet and 2) Keep them straight.

1) Straighten out the feet

The most common way to straighten the feet and ankles is through a series of castings. Usually within the first two months after birth, your orthopedic doctor will cast your child's feet in such a way as to stretch them towards the proper position. The casts have to go all the way up the thigh because otherwise they will just slip off. A week later, you go in, have the old casts taken off and new casts put on. Depending on your situation, you may go through 8-14 sets of casts. Hopefully the feet will straighten out through casting alone.

If casting alone does not do the trick, your child may have to have tendon release surgery followed by, you guessed it, more casting (our Annie had surgery on both her ankles).

2) Keep them straight

Clubbed feet have a tendency to regress and so Ankle-Foot Orthotics (AFO's) are almost always prescribed. These are basically hard plastic shoes that must be worn most of the day to keep the feet from regressing.

Here are Annie's first AFOs:

Once your little one is in AFO's, you will typically go back for checkups every six months or so.

Further reading:

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