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Fractures of the Calcaneus

A fracture of the calcaneus isn’t uncommon, and the pain that follows will likely be extremely hard to ignore.

There are seven bones – called tarsals – that make up your hindfoot and midfoot. The calcaneus, which is also known as the heel bone, is the largest of these tarsal bones and lies at the back of the foot below the three bones that make up your ankle joint. Fractures of the tarsal bones account for about 2 percent of all adult fractures, with the calcaneus being involved in roughly 60 percent of all tarsal fractures.

“Although fractures of the metatarsals are more common, injuries to the calcaneus can often be far more debilitating,” said Dr. Ian S. Goldbaum of Delray Beach Podiatry. “It is an extremely painful injury that can not only cause problems in the short term, but the long term as well.”

As Dr. Goldbaum alluded to, a fracture of the calcaneus can be a painful and disabling injury, often occurring as the result of a high-energy event – such as a crash or a fall — when the weight of the body is displaced in such a way that it actually crushes the heel. When this occurs, the heel can widen, shorten, and become deformed.

The diagnosis for a fracture of the calcaneus can rage for somewhat mild to very severe, with treatment often involving surgery to reconstruct the normal anatomy of the heel and restore mobility so that you can return to normal activity.

The severity of a calcaneus injury depends on several factors, including:

  • The number of fractures
  • The amount and size of the broken bone fragments
  • The amount each piece is displaced
  • The injury to surrounding soft tissues, such as muscle, tendons, and skin

But even with optimal treatments, some fractures may result in long-term complications, such as pain, swelling, loss of motion, and arthritis.

“If a fracture is severe, it’s often far more difficult to return the foot to its pre-injury state,” Dr. Goldbaum said. “For that reason, it’s important to see your doctor at the first sign of pain. If a mild or moderate fracture is left unattended, there’s a chance that it could turn into a far more severe injury.”

If you are suffering from a calcaneal fracture, a physical examination performed by a doctor will usually demonstrate tremendous swelling around the involved heel. In some cases,, there will even be a break in the skin, representing an open fracture. If you have an open fracture, it is considered an orthopedic emergency.

However, even if surgery isn’t necessary, calcaneal fractures can be quite difficult to treat, and the recovery can be prolonged.

Non-operative management of calcaneal fractures includes a prolonged period of non-weight bearing to allow the fracture to heal. This will typically take anywhere from 10-12 weeks in order to allow the calcaneal fracture to be healed enough to bare weight. During that time, you are treated with appropriate pain control, including elevation to limit swelling, ice to decrease the swelling and improve local symptoms, and pain medication.

Follow Delray Beach Podiatry on Twitter @Delray_Podiatry

The content on this website is for informational purposes only. Do not rely or act upon information from without seeking professional medical advice. If you live in South Florida and would like a consultation with Dr. Ian Goldbaum, a podiatric physician and surgeon with over 30 years of experience, please see our contact information below:


16244 S. Military Trail #290, Delray Beach, FL 33445



8198 Jog Road #100, Boynton Beach, FL 33472



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