Most children born with clubfoot have a congenital (present at birth) abnormality that causes one or both feet to turn inward and downward. For the majority of children, clubfoot is almost completely correctable without major surgery or pain. Nemours orthopedic specialists use an established method to gently and safely stretch your child’s foot or feet into the correct forward-facing position using casts and, later, orthotics (braces).
Congenital clubfoot occurs in about one out of 1,000 children and is twice as common in boys as girls. For kids diagnosed with the condition, there’s an excellent chance that proper treatment will allow them to run, jump, play sports, dance, and experience all the joys of childhood.
The most effective and least expensive treatment for congenital clubfoot is the Ponseti method. Named after Ignacio Ponseti, the doctor who invented it, this minimally invasive treatment is considered the international gold standard in correcting clubfoot. It starts shortly after birth and has two distinct phases:
- Casting: A cast is placed on the affected foot or feet to gently guide the bones, ligaments, and tendons toward the correct position. The cast is replaced and adjusted weekly for several weeks. Many children do require a minor procedure to help achieve the final corrected position of the foot.
- Orthotics: After the final cast, they’ll be fitted for an orthotic, which keeps the clubfoot from developing again. The orthotic is used for a period of 2 to 5 years, mostly at night.
The Ponseti method has been developed and refined over the past 50 years, and numerous studies have shown that it’s almost always the most effective and least painful way to correct a clubfoot. It doesn’t cure clubfoot entirely, and the affected feet and calf muscles are usually a little smaller than normal. But the method does restore your child’s ability to enjoy all the physical activities of a normal childhood.