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7-minute read

Key facts

  • Clubfoot is the name used when your baby’s feet aren’t in the normal position or the usual shape.
  • Clubfoot is treated by the Ponseti method.
  • The Ponseti method is almost always successful if done properly.
  • If clubfoot is not treated, there can be problems when your child starts to walk.

What is clubfoot?

Sometimes a baby is born with one or both feet that are not in the normal position or the usual shape. This is called ‘clubfoot’.

The medical name for clubfoot is ‘congenital talipes equinovarus’. It can be mild, or it can be severe.

All babies with clubfoot need treatment so that their feet can grow normally.

Clubfoot is different from another type of talipes, positional talipes. Positional talipes is present from birth, but your baby’s feet will be flexible and able to be moved into the correct position with gentle pressure.

Illustration of a baby with a clubfoot. It shows a foot has turned inwards at the ankle.
Illustration of clubfoot, a foot that is turned inwards at the ankle.

What are the symptoms of clubfoot?

Clubfoot makes your baby’s foot turn down and inwards. It can affect one or both feet. The foot can look twisted or curved.

Your baby might also have calf muscles that are not developed properly. Some babies have small feet.

A clubfoot is not painful until your child starts to learn to walk.

What causes clubfoot?

We don’t know why some babies are born with clubfoot. It’s possible that the bones and ligaments don't develop properly when the baby is growing in the womb.

Clubfoot can run in families. It’s more common in boys than girls. Clubfoot happens in about 1 in 1,000 babies.

When should I see my doctor?

You should see your doctor if your child is starting to walk and seems to be walking in an unusual way. You can also ask the nurse at your baby’s next health check.

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How is clubfoot diagnosed?

Clubfoot can show up on an ultrasound done before birth. About half of babies with clubfoot can be diagnosed this way.

Clubfoot can also be diagnosed soon after a baby is born.

Your doctor will examine your baby’s feet. Sometimes your doctor may do an x-ray. This can show how bad the problem is.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

How is clubfoot treated?

A treatment called the ‘Ponseti method’ is very effective for treating clubfoot. Treatment gently moves the foot into the correct position.

The Ponseti method uses a series of plaster casts on the leg and foot. The plaster casts gently stretch your baby’s foot. They move your baby's foot into the right position over time.

The casts are worn from the toes to the groin and are changed each week for about 6 weeks.

See your doctor if, during casting, you notice:

  • a foul smell from the cast
  • red, sore or irritated skin
  • the cast starting to slip off
  • your baby has a fever

Your baby will need to wear a brace for the first 3 months after casting. This is kept on 23 hours a day. After that, the brace is worn overnight until your child is about 4 years of age.

It's very important to wear the brace for the right amount of time. This can stop the clubfoot coming back. Your doctor or the clinic will also teach you stretching exercises for your baby’s feet and legs.


Your baby may also need minor surgery to lengthen their Achilles tendon. This is the tendon that’s at the back of the heel. It connects the leg muscles to the heel. It’s important for running and walking.

A cast is then put on for another 2 to 3 weeks to allow the tendon to heal.

Long-term follow up

Your child should be monitored as they grow. Always see your doctor if you have any concerns about your child.

Learn more about helping your child with medical procedures and hospital stays.

Can club foot be prevented?

Clubfoot can’t be prevented as the cause is not known.

What are the complications of club foot?

If clubfoot is not treated, there can be problems when your child starts to walk. Your child may have to walk on the side of their foot. This can cause ulcers and hardening of the sides of the feet.

It can be hard to wear shoes. Other issues can be poor self-image and unusual walking style.

Adults who were not treated properly for clubfoot can have pain, hip problems and arthritis.

Some children might need special shoes because one foot may be smaller than the other. Their foot might be slightly less flexible. In some children, the calf muscles may be shorter.

When club foot returns

Sometimes a clubfoot can return. This can happen in the first few years after treatment. It’s important to return to the specialist team to fix the problem.

Your child may need special shoes. They may have to wear a brace or splint for a longer time.

Resources and support

Having a new baby with a health issue can be a worrying time. Doctors and other health professionals can help parents to know where to get more information. They can advise on the type of healthcare needed for your baby.

Many hospitals have clinics to treat clubfoot. To find an orthopaedic surgeon, talk to your doctor or visit Aussie Club Foot Kids.

You can also call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available to speak with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

This information was originally published on healthdirect - Clubfoot.

Last reviewed: March 2024

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Need more information?

Clubfoot in babies & children | Raising Children Network

Clubfoot is when a baby’s foot points downwards and inwards. It’s a structural problem and needs early treatment. Clubfoot is also called talipes equinovarus

Read more on website

Positional talipes: babies & children | Raising Children Network

Positional talipes is a common problem with baby feet. The foot or feet point down and in. With gentle stretches, it usually fixes itself within 6 months.

Read more on website

Positional talipes

Positional talipes is a foot problem where your baby is born with a foot that is turned in. Read on to learn how to treat positional talipes.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Gait: pigeon toe, out-toeing, toe walking | Raising Children Network

Gait disorders in children include pigeon toe or in-toeing, out-toeing and toe walking. Most gait disorders don’t need treatment, but it’s best to see a GP.

Read more on website

Hip dysplasia in babies

Hip dysplasia is a problem with how a baby's hip develops. Find out more about the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment including using a specialised brace.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

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