Talipes is a common foot and lower leg abnormality in babies and children, in which the foot points downwards and inwards and are twisted out of normal position. This condition is present at birth and occurs twice as often in males than in females.
50% of all cases affect both feet (bilateral) but it can affect just one. Often this condition is not painful but may restrict walking and become painful if left untreated.
1 in 1000 babies is affected by this condition if there is no family history of talipes. Chances of this occurrence increases to 3 in 100 (3%) if a previous child in the family has had the diagnosis. In comparison, if a parent has previously suffered themselves this increases the risk to 20-30%.
What Causes Talipes?
Most causes of talipes are unknown (idiopathic). However, it is important to stress the mother did nothing to cause this. There are many associated disorders or syndromes such as developmental hip dysplasia, spina bifida, arthrogryposis, or myotonic dystrophy which may increase the chances of developing talipes.
- Genetics– Talipes may “run in the family” — a grandparent, parent, cousin, or other relative may have had it as a child. This makes your child more likely to have talipes, but not all people with a family history of the condition have kids with talipes.
- Neuromuscular disorders– Some cases of talipes are caused by a miscommunication between the brain and the muscles. This results in the muscles and tendons of the foot being very tight, which can pull it into a shape that looks like clubfoot.
- In-utero, a baby may develop positional talipes. It can happen when a baby is cramped or in an awkward position during the pregnancy due to the baby being large, the mum having an abnormally shaped or small uterus or abnormal intrauterine fluid levels.
What are the Symptoms of Talipes?
- Stiff, rigid foot
- Short and/or tight Achilles tendon, with foot pointing downward
- The heel is turned in
How is Talipes Treated?
Most cases of talipes will often self-correct within 6 months; however, babies often respond very well to treatment as the bones in a newborn foot are mostly cartilage, therefore they are easily mouldable / manipulated.
There are several non-invasive options for treatment including manual therapy in order to stretch the surrounding muscles and ligaments as well as joint articulation and mobilisation. As a parent, you will be taught some gentle stretches and techniques to stretch the ankles.
Otherwise, dependent on the severity of the condition, casting can be used to slowly stretch the tissues and move the foot into the correct position. This is a lengthy process and requires changing the casts regularly in order to create change.