foot anatomy dr. thomas mcdonald hartford

Treating Stress Fractures Of The Heel

Our feet handle a lot of pressure with every step we take, and all of this stress can take its toll on our feet over time. Depending on your footstrike pattern, much of the stress of your body weight may be loaded onto your heel during each step, and if you’re doing any high intensity activity like running or jumping, this can lead to a stress fracture in your heel. These injuries are known as calcaneal stress fractures, and in today’s blog, we’re going to explain how Dr. McDonald and his team can help you treat this type of injury.

Causes And Symptoms Of Heel Stress Fractures

As we mentioned in the introduction, calcaneal stress fractures typically occur as a result of repetitive stress over the course of an extended period of time as opposed to a larger calcaneal fracture that may be the result of a traumatic fall or car accident. This injury is characterized by tiny microfractures within the heel bone, and they can make every step uncomfortable. Repetitive stress and increasing your activity level too quickly are two of the most common underlying causes of stress fractures, which is why athletes and runners are two groups typically affected by the condition.

Symptoms of a calcaneal stress fracture can vary from patient to patient, but some of the most common symptoms associated with the injury include:

  • Pain when walking
  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Flushed or red skin
  • Tenderness
  • Skin that is warm to the touch
  • Inhibited gait

If you are dealing with any of these symptoms, especially if you have reason to believe that a stress fracture may have developed, connect with a foot and ankle specialist.

Treating Heel Stress Fractures

If you visit a specialist because you’re dealing with the above symptoms, they’ll begin by taking a look at the area and asking questions about symptom onset and your daily activities. If they want to get a better understanding of what’s going on in your heel, or if they want to rule out a more serious fracture, they may order an x-ray.

Fortunately, heel stress fractures almost always fully heal through conservative treatment methods. A typical course of treatment will focus on taking stress off the area so the microfractures have time to fully heal. To do this, your foot may be placed in a boot or cast for an extended period of time until enough healing has taken place. Your exact timeline in a boot may vary, but many people wear the protective boot for 6-8 weeks and then gradually return to loadbearing activities. Most patients are back to full activities by 12 weeks. If muscles in your feet or ankles have atrophied during this time, a few physical therapy sessions may be recommended to restore strength and mobility in the foot.


o if you believe that you may be dealing with a stress fracture in your heel, don’t try to push through the discomfort and continue with your same activities. Work to protect the foot and connect with a foot specialist to help put your heel stress fracture in the past. For more information, or for help with a different foot or ankle condition, reach out to Dr. McDonald and his team today at (860) 244-8889.

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