Gary’s Clubfoot Story

Hi there! My name is Gary Turner and I reside in Denver,CO. I was glad to find your site and would like to share my story, too. I’m 29 and an only child who was born with a severely clubbed right foot. My left foot was also clubbed but it was only the tendons. The right foot was the more severe bone deformity version of a club foot (Equinovarus). I have a smaller right calf, but through avid bicycling and kung fu training it has more strength and flexibility than when I was younger. I also have a cousin who is now 13 years old who was born with a left clubfoot. Surgeries have been a part of my life and I even work in a hospital now “returning the favor”. I had what appears to be some abs on my hands and toes, similar to little Evan. Doctors told my family I wouldn’t live past 6 months and that I’d be mentally retarded. But here I am, still hard to kill and going for my third college diploma!

It was difficult growing up. That made me a stronger individual today, though. There was plenty of physical pain and still is. Socially, it made things difficult being the kid who walked funny. I still managed a 7:12 mile but could hardly walk for three days afterwards. I can also tell you segregation and discrimination is still alive and well in the South. I hung out with the other “outcasts” in school. Archaic Victorian thinking is a carryover from Europe and it’s still very much a part of culture in the South. After a while, I just found other stuff to do rather than trying to fit in with everybody else that didn’t get along well in the first place. I found friends who accepted me for who I am, and rejection from the mainstream was part of that journey. Our uniqueness makes us special and not less than anyone else.

I did well in basketball for a few years but a better fit was cycling, kung fu, weight lifting, and racing. It’s good to keep active, even if it isn’t smearing the competition all over a football field. I think the pain that comes from clubbed feet makes individuals better fighters, smarter, and more adaptable individuals. Adversity and adaptation becomes a part of our lives and virtually second nature. Custom hard-sole orthotics helped more than I could ever describe. I still trash shoes every three months but I’m quite active in the first place and hate sitting still.

Exercise and nutrition:

I’ve found something very much worth sharing with all of you. I wasn’t always an exercise nut. I still don’t qualify as a gym rat, either. I ride (with clipless pedals and shoe orthotics) 75-100 miles on a bicycle. This coupled with weight training has helped increase my clubbed foot strength. What really surprised me was taking protein mix a couple to three times a day. I have packed on another inch in diameter on my clubbed foot’s calf in this crazy 90 day experiment I did. I’m now in my second 90 days, lifting more weight and going farther. My stopping point was my pain threshold. That has diminished and I can push farther much more comfortably.

Conditioning and weight training can go a long way for us. Strengthening tendons and ligaments requires a low stress, high repetition exercise anyway. That’s not ideal for putting on muscle like weights, but “max muscle” isn’t the point. We can still exercise our legs and get good results that help our joint stability, balance, and strength. I do “resistance biking”, where I use a mountain bike with partially deflated tires to add extra resistance. (Parents, it may be a wonderful excuse to bike with your clubfoot kids!) I also have a rowing machine. Working the legs and lower back are very important for lower body strength.

Nutritional supplements. Straight up. :

I believe Apexx Fit Supreme has helped my muscles and tendons become stronger. It’s a whey protein sold at 24hr fitness for about $30/tub. I drink a lot of 2% and skim milk because of it which also provides calcium. I also take a multi-vitamin, C, D, E, and glucosamine/chondroitin with MSM every night before bedtime. Our bodies repair themselves when we sleep. I don’t wake up with my feet bound and hurting like I used to, either.

I’ll go out on a limb and say a portion of you may not get sick very often because of your clubbed foot. The long term pain reaction kicks in our immune systems. Some kinds of arthritis and inflammation issues are caused by an overactive immune system that attacks the joints instead of rebuilding them. I gave it “tools” with the supplements and protein mixes. This appears to be working.

I haven’t had running legs since childhood. All of this crazy experimentation I did on myself is working. No steroids to build muscle have entered my body. I have virtually stopped taking tylenol, ibuprofen, and naproxen sodium.

Training like an athlete may be the key to leaving our pain behind. We have an effective arsenal of widely available tools at this time in history to non-invasively treat club footed ailments. That has never existed.


12 thoughts on “Gary’s Clubfoot Story”

  1. Your outlook on your situation really motivated me. I have a left club foot and it’s really bothered me my whole life. I’ve been slowly realizing to not care what people think and just be myself. This article really hit it home for me that you only get one chance at life and might as well make the most of what you got.
    Thanks for being positive and helping me realize I’m not alone.

  2. Wow. I have not checked in here for a while. I’ll do a longer write up here shortly. I think I’ve worked out a gentler path for muscle building. (Some folks didn’t like my masochistic approach to muscle building. No offense taken.)

    To start:

    Yoga–stretches and stances helped me a great deal for flexibility, strength, and stamina. We have a slightly wider stance than most. Don’t be afraid of having your feet a little farther than shoulder width apart compared to the instructor. I found that about another foot’s-width worth of a wider stance is comfortable for me (Not 12 inches, just the width of your foot.)

    Bicycling–I love to pedal! Pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal. Make sure you’ve got clipless shoes or a cage to slip your feet into. Modern stationary bikes usually have a strap over the foot, which is ok, too. The point is to get your foot to work on the up and down strokes. Work your legs together. I say this because you can concentrate too much on the weakest link and get hurt overdoing it. Over time, this will lessen your overcompensation tendencies.

    Build strong tendons and ligaments before trying to add muscle. You need a strong foundation to add the muscle. Biking and yoga will add some muscle, but it will be slow going.


  3. rebecca cumings

    My name is Rebecca Cumings. I’m forty years old and I was born with a severe club feet and lots of surgeries when I was growing up. My doctor told me to do leg stretches for my legs. He says that it will make my legs stronger. Is this true?

  4. Hey Gary, I was also born with clubbed feet. Extremely skinny calfs. Since working them out have the clubbed foot calf grown at all?

  5. Thank you so much for this article. My 9 year old son was born with a club foot (right) and has had 3 surgeries. He currently plays football now and is pretty darn good, his only issue is speed, obviously because he is kind of running on 1 leg. Some days a re great and he’s super quick, other days he’s slow and looks exhausted. Do you recommend any exercises to help with his speed, because its there?

  6. I have a question regarding when you said that You Gained an inch diameter in your calf Muscle which is very impressive by the way =) . i was wondering if your other leg gained muscle as well. Are they the same If you measure them or is their still a Calf diffrence

  7. Hello Gary,

    I was really interested in your work out experiments-as you put it. I am 23 years old now and I never joined any sports since my mom was always worried about me getting hurt. Then I kind of just accepted I shouldn’t play sports-now I regret this. I think because of all the casts I wore and my last surgery when I was 11 I have very small calf muscles. So I was wondering what kind of exercise you are doing for your calfs. Thanks for all your tips 🙂

    1. Hi, Jacki.

      I’ve moved to Oklahoma City since writing that first entry. I found that getting to a lower altitude has helped my joints immensely. I don’t quite know why, but I think increased ambient air pressure helps keep my joints in check. Just stopping in Denver on a layover flight was enough for my joints to click. I hate that feeling!

      I’ve refined my workout routine and am not quite as sadistic being closer to 40. A rowing machine helps a lot. One with a fan to provide gentle resistance is a good thing.

      My latest adventure has been “water walking”. The idea is to simply take a walk IN a pool! It provides resistance to work against, but isn’t as hard on the joints. I walk around in our pool at the condo when it’s open. 50 laps later, I’m whipped!

      Kata training from various martial arts has also helped. “Kata” are the forms in martial arts. These forms were prescribed movements from monks. The literal translation of “kung fu” is “hard work”. Part of what gets lost in translation is the notion of a “way of life”. Americans think of Moses reading from a tablet or a preacher on a pulpit. From the Asian perspective, kung fu as a “way of life” is simply aerobics and calisthenics. Monks developed these practiced forms as a way to stay healthy.

      1. A couple of other things.

        I swear by this liniment combination. Tiger Balm and Zhen Gu Shui (pronounced “Sen koo soy”). Mastar Chan recommended that one and I’ve used it for 20 years, now. Tiger balm is in the medicine aisle. Zhen gu Shui is sold in most Asian grocers. It looks like this:

        Epsom salts are another great remedy. I pour some in a hot bath, soak for 30 minutes, and pop out very relaxed.

      2. Hey Gary! My name is Ben I was born with a right clubed foot I got surgery when I was little. I was wondering If you had any advice for gaining calf muscles on my leg. If you got any please tell me know

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