Cleft Foot

What is cleft foot?

Cleft foot is a rare congenital (meaning your baby was born with it) anomaly in which the foot didn’t develop properly during fetal development. This causes the affected foot to have missing toes, a V-shaped cleft and other anatomical differences. Cleft foot is very rare, affecting fewer than 1 in 1,000,000 babies.

Surgery can usually improve the foot’s function, especially since the heel, which remains normal, is the area of the foot that’s most needed for walking. So, for both cosmetic and cost reasons, the main issue is: Can your child’s affected foot fit into an off-the-shelf shoe?

Cleft foot occurs by itself (in isolation) along with a similar cleft of the hand, called split hand-split foot malformation (SHFM) or ectrodactyly. Most affected children — except those with very mild cases—need one or more surgeries, usually starting at around 1 or 2 years of age, when a child can tolerate surgery and anesthesia well. Surgery’s first goal is to improve the foot’s function. The second goal is to improve the foot’s shape and appearance, preferably before the child becomes aware that their foot looks different from those of other children.

Surgically re-shaping the foot increases the chances of the child being able to wear off-the-shelf shoes, instead of costly custom-made shoes. When planning surgery, the surgeon must consider not just the bones of the foot, but also soft tissue, such as ligaments and nerves.

How we care for cleft foot

The Orthopedic Center's Lower Extremity Program offers comprehensive assessment, diagnosis, surgical and non-surgical treatment of infants, children and teens with complex disorders of the lower extremities, including cleft foot.

With more than 5,000 pediatric visits per year, our multidisciplinary team of fellowship-trained, board-certified, pediatric orthopedic surgeons is one of the most experienced in the country.