Calcaneus (Heel Bone) Fracture

The calcaneus, or heel bone, is a large bone that forms the foundation of the rear part of the foot. The heel bone is often compared to a hardboiled egg because it has a thin, hard outer shell with a soft, spongy bone on the inside. Like a hardboiled egg, when the calcaneus is broken, the bone tends to collapse and become fragmented. Fractures to the calcaneus may also cause the heel bone to widen and shorten. Additionally, if there is damage to the articular cartilage covering the joint, patients may experience long-term complications such as chronic pain, arthritis, and loss of motion. This is one reason why calcaneus fractures are such severe injuries. Additionally, if the fracture involves the joint, there is potential for long-term consequences, such as arthritis and chronic pain.


Most fractures to the calcaneus are caused by a traumatic event, such as a fall from a ladder, a twisting injury to the ankle, or an automobile accident where the heel is crushed against the floorboard. A small number of calcaneus fractures are stress fractures cause by overuse or repetitive stress on the heel.


Patients with calcaneus fractures usually experience:

  • Heel pain
  • Inability to bear weight on the injured foot
  • Swelling in the heel area
  • Bruising of the heel and ankle
  • Heel deformity

Nonsurgical treatment may be recommended if the pieces of broken bone have not been displaced by the force of the injury. A cast or brace will be used to immobilize the foot and hold the bones together in the proper position while they heal. You may be required to wear an immobilizer for up to 8 weeks, or more. During this time, you will not be allowed to put any weight on the injured foot.


Surgery to correct a calcaneus fracture is recommended if the bones have shifted out of place. Surgery is used to restore the normal shape and contour of the heel bone. The most common surgical technique used to treat a broken calcaneus involves the use of plates and screws to hold the broken bone together.


Patients should expect a lengthy recovery following a surgically repaired calcaneus fracture. You will not be allowed to put weight on your foot for at least six to eight weeks following surgery. Since the foot is immobilized for such an extended period of time, some permanent loss of motion should be expected. Patients should also expect some residual pain despite complete heeling.