The foot and ankle consist of bones, muscles, joints, ligaments, and tendons which work together to allow us to walk upright. These structures also keep the feet and ankles strong and stable.

Sometimes these structures are deformed in some way. Bones and joints may be misaligned or deformed on multiple planes. There may be a muscle imbalance, or a contracture (shortening/hardness) in the connective tissues surrounding the ankle. These complex deformities may cause pain and changes to the shape, structure and functionality of the foot and ankle.

Complex foot and ankle deformities may be congenital (present at birth), acquired (occur over time), or both. Because they can change a person’s gait, these deformities may harden the skin, or cause pressure sores and calluses to develop. Tendons and muscles may tear due to abnormal amounts of stress. There may also be secondary effects in other parts of the body, including osteoarthritis.

Types of Foot Deformities: Club foot is a painful deformity where the feet point downward and inward, and standing is only possible on the outer or upper edge of the feet. Some other types of foot deformities include high arches, congenital or acquired flat foot, splay foot (where the metatarsal bones are spread widely apart), metatarsus adductus (a muscular imbalance causing in-toeing of the forefoot, congenital or acquired equinus foot (where short calves prevent the normal heel-to-toe walking stride), heel spurs, and pronated feet, which cause the heel to lean inwardly rather than being upright.

Some acquired deformities such as hammertoes, bunions, and heel spurs, may be due to wearing ill-fitting footwear or high heels, or by gaining weight quickly. Injuries may also lead to the development of a foot deformity if not treated properly, as well as certain diseases. Arthritis and diabetes can break down and weaken bones and joints to the point of collapse, causing deformities such as Charcot foot and others.

The ultimate treatment goal of a complex deformity is to eliminate pain and restore mobility and proper alignment while correcting the outward appearance. Depending on the severity and type of condition, correction may be achieved through a variety of conservative and/or surgical interventions.

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