What is Clubfoot

Clubfoot is a common birth defect that causes disability if left untreated


Clubfoot is the most common musculoskeletal birth defect. The baby is born with one or both feet twisted downwards and inwards, in a rigid position. The South African black population has the second highest rate of clubfoot incidence in the world – an estimated 1 in 500 live births.

Every year over 2,000 babies are born in South Africa with clubfoot, and another ± 3,000 in neighbouring countries.

If left untreated, the child will be unable to walk properly, leading to a life of disability. Clubfoot, however, can be treated. Early and effective treatment allows the child to live a life without disability, so that they can walk, run and play like any other child.


Clubfoot is no-one’s fault. Clubfoot is not caused by anything the parents have done, or have not done while pregnant. Doctors do not yet know the cause of congenital clubfoot. Sometimes clubfoot can run in families, sometimes it is an isolated case. Sometimes clubfoot is linked with other conditions, but this is very rare. Most children with clubfoot are otherwise healthy.


  • Ideally, when the child is 2 weeks old, they should have their first casts applied.
  • If your baby is older but not walking, treatment is still very effective
  • If your child is walking, the treatment can still be successful, but it can take longer as the foot is less flexible and some older children may need additional surgery