Heel fractures—also called calcaneus fractures or, more simply, a broken heel—most often occur as a result of high-energy collision such as a bad fall or car accident, and can be severe and lead to long-term problems. In about 10 percent of heel fractures, the patient also suffers a fracture of the hip, spine or other calcaneus (i.e., the heel bone), and injuries to the calcaneus often damage the subtalar joint, causing that joint to be stiff and making it difficult to walk on uneven or slanted surfaces.
The severity of the fracture depends on the amount of force that caused it. There are several types of heel fractures:
- Stable fracture: In this type of nondisplaced fracture, the broken ends up the bones meet up correctly and are aligned. The bones most often stay in place while they’re healing.
- Displaced fracture: The broken ends are separated and do not line up, thus requiring surgery to put the pieces back together.
- Open fracture: These are broken bones that break through the skin, and often involve damage to the surrounding muscles, tendons and ligaments. These fractures have a higher risk of complications and may take longer to heal.
- Closed fracture: The broken bones do not break then skin, but internal soft tissues may still be damaged.
- Comminuted fracture: The bone shatters into three or more pieces, making this type of fracture very unstable.