There are some questions that are almost impossible to answer, like “What is the speed of darkness?” or “Why would a Kamikaze pilot wear a helmet?” For podiatrists, “How long will it take for my broken heel to mend?” is sort of in that line. We can give you some general guidelines for recovery time for heel fractures, but every situation is different.
There are some things we do know:
- Bone tissue itself takes between 6 and 12 weeks to heal, and kids’ bones heal faster than adults.
- All bone healing follows a specific pattern
- Actual bone healing is only part of your recovery
When a bone is broken, the associated blood vessels bleed and clot, which leads to inflammation. This necessary clotting forms the basis for bone repair. The clotted blood is slowly replaced by tissue fibers and cartilage, which in turn gradually hardens into bone tissue that can be seen on x-rays. In kids, this process is quicker because they are still building bone faster than it breaks down, but in adults, bones are already losing more cells than they gain, so healing takes longer.
Once the bone is healed and you can start gradually putting weight on your foot again, you enter the second phase—rehab. Your muscles and soft tissues have lost function while your foot and ankle were immobilized, so you need to recondition them to regain strength and range of motion in your limbs. This physical therapy is a crucial part of your healing if you want to be able to resume normal activity.
There are a couple of things that will delay your healing: one is putting weight on your foot too soon and undoing the bone repair. The other is a compromised healing capacity. In that case, it may require a longer time in the cast or special treatment like bone stimulation, grafts, or the use of growth proteins. You need to realize that with a serious heel fracture, you may always have some residual discomfort and limitation.
It is safe to say that complete healing from a broken heel can take several months to a year or more in most cases, whether we do surgery to repair the bone or not. If you suspect a heel fracture, don’t wait to come in and have us evaluate it so we can plan your treatment. Call Southern California Foot & Ankle Specialists at (949) 364-9255 (WALK) or schedule your visit online.