Calcaneus Fracture

What is a calcaneus fracture, and what are my treatment options?

Are you experiencing intense heel pain after a fall or accident? If so, you might be suffering from a calcaneus fracture, commonly known as a broken heel bone.

At OrthoNeuro, our team of foot and ankle specialists is dedicated to providing expert care for conditions like calcaneus fractures. In this article, we will discuss the symptoms, causes, types, diagnostic tests, treatments, recovery, and outlook for calcaneus fractures.

Schedule a consultation at OrthoNeuro today! Our experts provide treatment for several foot and ankle conditions, including tarsal fractures. We have multiple locations throughout Columbus, Ohio.

What is a Calcaneus Fracture?

The calcaneus (also known as the heel bone) is the largest bone in the foot. The calcaneus has 4 facets—1 anterior facet that forms part of the calcaneocuboid joint and 3 superior facets (with the posterior facet representing the major weight-bearing surface) that form the subtalar joint.

A calcaneus fracture occurs when the heel bone breaks. This injury can range from a hairline crack to a complete shattering of the bone. Calcaneus fractures are usually caused by a high-energy impact, such as a fall from a height or a car accident. The severity of the fracture depends on the force and angle of the impact.

Stress fractures may also occur in athletes. This type of stress fracture can occur as repetitive strain is put on the bone over a long period of time.

An avulsion fracture is another possibility, where the Achilles tendon pulls away a piece of bone from the calcaneus.

Symptoms of Calcaneal Fractures

Calcaneus fractures often cause severe pain and swelling in the affected foot. 

Other common symptoms include:

  • Inability to bear weight on the foot
  • Bruising or discoloration around the heel
  • Difficulty walking or standing
  • Tenderness when touching the heel
  • Deformity or widening of the heel

What Can Cause a Calcaneal Fracture?

The most common causes of calcaneus fractures include:

Types of Calcaneus Fractures

Calcaneus fractures can be categorized into different types based on their location and severity.

The most common types include:

  1. Intra-articular fractures: These fractures involve the joints and cartilage of the heel bone. They may cause joint stiffness and require surgical treatment.
  2. Extra-articular fractures: These fractures occur outside the joint and are typically less severe. Non-surgical treatments like immobilization and physical therapy may be sufficient for healing.
  3. Avulsion fractures: In avulsion fractures, a small piece of bone is pulled away from the main bone due to the force of a tendon or ligament. They may require surgical intervention to reattach the bone fragment.

Diagnosing Calcaneus Fractures

To diagnose a calcaneus fracture, your doctor will thoroughly examine your foot and order imaging tests. X-rays are commonly used to visualize the fracture and determine the extent of the injury. 

Treatments for Calcaneal Fractures

The treatments for a calcaneus fracture depend on the type and severity of the fracture and whether there is an associated soft tissue injury. In some cases, nonsurgical treatments like immobilization, pain management, and physical therapy may be recommended. However, many calcaneus fractures require surgical intervention.

Surgical treatment options include:

  • Open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF): This procedure involves realigning the fractured bones and securing them with screws, plates, or rods.
  • External fixation: In some complex fractures, an external frame is attached to the foot to stabilize the bones during the healing process.

Recovery and Outlook

The recovery time for a calcaneus fracture can vary depending on the severity of the injury and the type of treatment received. It typically takes several months for the bones to heal completely. During this time, you may need to avoid weight-bearing activities and use crutches or a wheelchair.

Following the initial healing phase, physical therapy may be an essential part of your recovery process. It can help restore strength, flexibility, and range of motion to your foot and ankle. Your orthopedic team will guide you through a personalized rehabilitation program to optimize your recovery and regain full function.

It’s important to note that calcaneus fractures can sometimes lead to long-term complications, such as chronic pain, arthritis, or decreased mobility. Regular follow-up appointments with your orthopedic specialist are crucial to monitor your progress and address any concerns.

Get Expert Treatment!

If you suspect you have a calcaneus fracture or are experiencing foot pain after an injury, don’t hesitate to contact OrthoNeuro. Our expert foot and ankle specialists are here to provide the highest quality care for your condition.

With multiple locations in Columbus, OH, we offer convenient access to advanced treatment options for calcaneus fractures and various other foot and ankle conditions. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and take the first step towards recovery!

Medically reviewed by
Jeffrey E. Gittins, D.O.

Foot, Ankle, and Podiatry Specialists


Nicholas A. Cheney, DO, FAOAO

Orthopedic Foot & Ankle Surgeon

Jeffrey E. Gittins, DO

Orthopedic Surgeon

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