Examination of the newborn foot: positional and structural abnormalities

Adv Neonatal Care. 2002 Oct;2(5):248-58.


Newborn feet come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The foot is malleable, making it susceptible to compression and deformation from intrauterine positioning. Clinicians frequently question whether variations represent deformations, that is, an alteration in the shape and contour of a normally formed foot, as opposed to a true structural malformation. Distinguishing between a temporary positional deformity and a more serious structural foot malformation is challenging and requires a clear understanding of the anatomy of the foot, its complex embryologic development, and the impact of environmental and intrauterine factors. This installment of Focus on the Physical provides a systematic framework to identify normal, abnormal, and atypical foot deformities in the newborn period. The current theories of pathogenesis are provided, along with a step-by-step approach to the examination of the foot. A series of clinical photographs illustrate talipes equinovarus, metatarsus adductus, talipes calcaneovalgus, and congenital vertical talus. A discussion of the diagnostic studies used to differentiate these abnormalities is provided, along with a brief overview of treatment options. Early recognition and treatment are essential to ensure optimal long-term functional outcomes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Calcaneus / abnormalities
  • Clubfoot / diagnosis
  • Clubfoot / etiology
  • Clubfoot / therapy
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Foot / embryology
  • Foot Deformities, Congenital / diagnosis*
  • Foot Deformities, Congenital / therapy
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Metatarsus / abnormalities
  • Physical Examination / methods*
  • Talus / abnormalities
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal