What is a heel stress fracture?

A heel stress fracture, technically known as a calcaneal stress fracture, is small hairline fracture of the heel bone (calcaneus). It is typically caused by overuse and repetitive overloading forces on the heel bone.

Heel or calcaneal stress fractures were once typically seen in soldiers carrying heavy weights and marching long distances. They can be common in marathon runners, ballet dancers and other sports that involve a lot of jumping and landing.

Do you suffer from a heel stress fracture?

Signs & symptoms of a heel stress fracture

The following signs or symptoms can indicate a heel stress fracture:

  • Heel pain on the bottom of the heel or a deep pain in the heel bone.
  • Heel pain that increases with activity and is relieved by rest.
  • Pain is often worse with any weight-bearing, running or jumping activities.
  • Symptoms are often similar to that of a bruised heel.
Heel stress fracture treatment Camberwell

Causes of a heel stress fracture

A heel stress fracture is caused by overuse and due to repetitive and excessive forces on the heel bone. The heel bone fails to absorb the forces resulting in bone failure and a small crack or fracture.

Factors that may increase the risk of a heel stress fracture include:

  • Heel fat pad atrophy
  • An increase in running or training especially on hard surfaces.
  • Poor running shoes
  • Poor foot biomechanics leading to a decrease in shock absorption at heel strike.
  • Diet deficiences or disease causing a decrease in bone strength.

Heel fat pad atrophy is a common factor in heel stress fractures and other causes of plantar heel pain. In heel fat pad atrophy the normally thick fatty pad under the heel bone is reduced and fails to shock absorb the heel. This results in excessive ground forces being transferred to the heel bone leading to an increased risk of a heel stress fracture.

Heel fat pad atrophy treatment Melbourne

Heel stress fracture diagnosis

A heel stress fracture can often be hard to diagnose clinically as symptoms are often similar to that of a bruised heel. A thorough history taking is essential as often it can flag risk factors associated with heel stress fractures. If our podiatrists suspect a heel stress fracture they will generally refer you for a MRI or bone scan to confirm diagnosis. X-rays are not useful as stress fractures can often be missed in the early stage of injury.

Podiatry treatment for a heel stress fracture

Treatment for a heel stress fracture by our Melbourne podiatrists is aimed at reducing forces on the heel bone to allow for healing. Once the heel bone has healed treatment is then aimed at identifying and eliminating the causative factors to help prevent future stress fractures from occurring.

Common initial podiatry treatment options include:

Secondary podiatry treatment options aimed at heel stress fracture prevention may include:

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Do you need treatment for a heel stress fracture?

At our Melbourne foot clinic our podiatrists are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of heel pain conditions affecting the foot, including heel stress fractures.

So if you are are experiencing heel pain or think you may have a calcaneal stress fracture book an appointment with one of our friendly podiatrists today!