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From Clubfooter to Barefooter

May 3, 2015 Leave a comment
Baby @barefootr at 8 months old with cast on right foot.

Baby @barefootr at 8 months old with cast on right clubfoot.

So here’s an interesting fact about me: I was born with a club foot, or “congenital talipes equinovarus” on just my right foot. Treatment involved a series of casts starting soon after I was born, changed every few weeks, that gradually moved my foot back into the normal position. After 4.5 months, they figured I was good to go and stopped the casts, but my foot reverted, so they put me back in casts for another 4.5 months. The final cast was removed when I turned 9 months old and I continued sleeping with a bar between my feet. This time the fix stuck and I was walking by the last week of my 9th month.
Forty-nine years after I was treated, I returned to visit the orthopedist who fixed my foot: Dr. Marvin Mishkin, who at 83 years old was still practicing and was delighted to visit with me.
Visiting with Dr. Misken - thanks for fixing my wonky foot 5 decades ago.. :)

Visiting with Dr. Misken – thanks for fixing my wonky foot 5 decades ago. Turned out pretty good 🙂

Now, this condition and its treatment has not impeded me physically at all: I was quite active as a kid and continue to be so as an adult (numerous triathlons, a couple of marathons and various other running races, snowboarding, crossfit, parkour, etc.). This is good news for kids born with this fairly common condition (1/1000 births), and their concerned parents.

The only repercussion I’ve noticed has been a significant decrease in flexibility (dorsiflexion) of my affected ankle (right side). I didn’t become aware of this until my mid/late 20’s, though it may have been a factor before then — I just never noticed it. It’s most apparent when I squat down deep: my right heel comes off the ground right away, while my left heel stays flat on the ground as low as I can go. Stretching and yoga have helped my right ankle flexibility, but just a tad. This issue has been most noticeable when snowboarding, which require lots of ankle flexion in the rear foot (hence I’m goofy).

Right calf (clubfoot side) hypotrophy relative to left.

Right calf (clubfoot side) hypotrophy relative to left.

My right ankle seems to have a different skeletal structure which prevents it from flexing like my non-club side. Whether this was primarily a consequence of the casting treatment or the clubfoot condition itself, I’m not sure. Dr. Miskin feels it likely is a consequence of the condition itself. Another noticeable thing is the asymmetry in my calf muscle structure of my right vs left side: My right calf is significantly skinnier than my left calf — something you would only notice when I’m standing still and draw attention to it. My right foot is slightly shorter and wider than my left and has a significantly different wear pattern on the sole.

How has the clubfoot affected me as a barefoot runner or in my other athletic endeavors? Stay tuned for additional thoughts & pics.

 

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