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Heel Bone (Calcaneus) Fracture

Most of us take our feet for granted. You don’t think about them until you’re injured, then it’s all you can think about.

You have a break in your heel bone (calcaneus bone). This may be due to excessive force or other trauma such as can happen when you fall from a height or are in a car crash. Certain sports can also put stress on the heel bone. A heel fracture can be painful and debilitating. It can affect your ability to walk and carry out daily activities.

Symptoms include:

  • Intense pain

  • Swelling and bruising around the heel

  • Trouble walking or bearing weight on the affected foot

  • Inability to bend or move the foot normally

  • Tenderness

Treatment may include:

  • Wearing a cast or brace

  • Keeping weight off the affected foot

  • Using ice and elevation

  • Having surgery to reconstruct the heel and fix it in place with screws, plates, or wires

  • Taking pain medicines

  • Doing rehabilitation such as physical therapy

Heel fractures require a significant amount of time to heal. It can take several weeks to several months, depending on the severity of the fracture and how it’s treated. You may need crutches, a cane, or walker when you begin walking. Physical therapy may help restore strength, flexibility, and mobility. If not diagnosed and treated properly, a serious fracture could cause long-term pain, arthritis, and loss of motion.

Home care

  • Your foot will be placed in a cast, boot, or splint to prevent movement of the foot and protect it. Unless you were told otherwise, use crutches or a walker. Don’t put weight on the injured foot until your healthcare provider says it’s OK. Crutches and walkers can be rented at many pharmacies and surgical or orthopedic supply stores.

  • Keep your foot raised to reduce pain and swelling. When sleeping, place a pillow under the injured foot. When sitting, support the injured foot so it is raised. This is very important during the first 48 hours.

  • Apply an ice pack over the injured area for no more than 15 to 20 minutes. Do this every 3 to 6 hours for the first 24 to 48 hours. Keep using ice packs 3 to 4 times a day for the next 2 to 3 days, then as needed to ease pain and swelling. To make an ice pack, put ice cubes in a plastic bag that seals at the top. Wrap the bag in a clean, thin towel or cloth. Never put ice or an ice pack directly on the skin. As the ice melts, be careful that the boot doesn’t get wet.

  • Keep the cast completely dry at all times. Bathe with your cast out of the water, protected with a waterproof shield or 2 large plastic bags. Place 1 bag outside of the other. Tape each bag with duct tape at the top end or use rubber bands. Water can still leak in. So it's best to keep the cast away from water. If a cast gets wet, dry it with a hair dryer on a cool setting.

  • You may use over-the-counter pain medicine to control pain, unless another pain medicine was prescribed. Talk with your healthcare provider before using these medicines if you have chronic liver or kidney disease, ever had a stomach ulcer or gastrointestinal bleeding, or take a blood thinner.


  • Wear the right footwear for specific activities

  • Wear appropriate safety gear during sports and physical activities

  • Be cautious while walking on uneven surfaces and avoid potential hazards

Follow-up care

Keep your appointments with your healthcare provider. Regular visits allow your healthcare provider to check your progress and to be sure you’re healing as expected.

When to get medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • The cast becomes wet or soft

  • There is increased tightness, sore areas, or pain

  • Your toes become swollen, cold, blue, numb, or tingly

  • The cast becomes loose

  • The cast has a bad smell

  • The cast develops cracks or breaks

  • Your pain doesn’t get better or gets worse

  • Fever of 100.4 (38.0 C) or higher

Call 911

Call 911 if you have:

  • Trouble breathing

  • Confusion

  • Trouble waking up or are very drowsy

  • Fainting or loss of consciousness

  • Fast heart rate

  • Seizure

  • Stiff neck

Online Medical Reviewer: Rahul Banerjee MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Stacey Wojcik MBA BSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2023
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