A doctor and patient discuss club foot

Causes of Club Foot

Club foot is a congenital condition that affects one or both feet. The affected foot or feet may turn inward, outward, or, in extreme cases, upward. The condition is fairly common, with it occurring in approximately 1 out of every 1000 births.

Here is a look at some potential causes for this birth defect and possible risks that can increase a child’s chances of being born with a club foot.

Club Foot Causes

In people with the condition, the tendons in the leg are shortened, the bones are shaped unusually, and the Achilles tendon is tightened. This deformation is visible at birth, and sometimes before—when viewing the fetus with an ultrasound. The cause of club foot is currently idiopathic, or unknown. 

However, researchers do have a few theories about what causes the condition. These include: 

  • Genetics: It is believed that the condition is sometimes caused by a genetic abnormality. If there is a family history of club foot, then your child is more likely to also have it.  Additionally, if you already have one child with club foot, the chances of another child having it increases.
  • Smoking during pregnancy: Studies have found a positive link between smoking cigarettes during pregnancy and club foot. It is believed that the condition is 20 times more likely to occur when smoking during pregnancy is combined with a genetic history as well. 
  • Skeletal conditions: Club foot has also been linked to other birth defects, such as spina bifida, which occurs when the tissue surrounding a developing fetus’ spinal cord doesn’t close correctly.

Club Foot Risk factors 

The following risk factors increase the likelihood of developing club foot:

  • Gender: Male children are more likely than females to be born with the club foot. 
  • Inadequate amount of amniotic fluid: Not enough amniotic fluid, which is the fluid that cushions the fetus in the womb, increases the chances of club foot. 
Last Updated: February 23, 2016