Anatomy & Organs

Heel bone – structure, function & diseases

Heel bone

The heel bone or calcaneus is the rearmost and at the same time largest foot bone. It gives the foot stability and is the attachment point for the Achilles tendon , for the main calf muscles and for the tendon plate underneath the foot, as well as for several muscles in the plantar area. The rearmost part of the heel bone forms the bony basis for the heel , with which compressive forces coming from above are transferred to the ground.

What is the heel bone?

The heel bone, the calcaneus, is the largest and rearmost tarsal bone of a total of 26 foot bones. It is slightly offset to the side and fulfills a variety of complex functions. The bone, which appears almost cuboid, serves as a pivot point for the Achilles tendon and the most important calf muscles as well as the tendon plate of the sole of the foot and some other ligaments and muscles under the foot .

It therefore plays an extremely important role in the statics of the foot. On the upper side, the calcaneus is connected to the ankle bone (talus) and absorbs its forces, which can be considerable when walking, jumping and running.

The heel bone transmits the enormous pressure forces to the ground. In order not to collapse, it has to meet high strength requirements. Forward, towards the toes, the calcaneus maintains the tension of the arch of the foot and is therefore supported by the cuboid bone, to which it is connected by an articulation.

Anatomy & Structure

The calcaneus is composed of bone mass and has specially shaped protrusions and articular surfaces to perform its multiple functions. There are three articular surfaces on the upper side of the calcaneus, of which the middle one is located on a process, the sustentaculum tali. It connects to the ankle bone (talus).A wide tendon sulci can be seen on the plantar side. The connection to the cuboid bone (Os cuboideum) in front of the heel bone is made by another joint surface. The rear part of the calcaneus, visible from the outside, is formed as a hump (Tuber calcanei), which serves as the attachment point for the Achilles tendon (Tendo calcaneus), the twin calf muscles and the soleus muscle on the upper side.

Two bumps are formed on the underside, to which the tendon plate of the sole of the foot and several muscles have grown, via which the movement of the individual toes can be controlled. Other bony projections and grooves serve as protection and guide channels for numerous other tendons and muscles.

Function & Tasks

The heel bone takes on a multitude of complex tasks and functions. Walking upright requires differentiated foot movement patterns, for which a total of 26 foot bones, including the toe bones, are available.

The calcaneus plays a major role in absorbing pressure, shear and twisting forces. The main compressive forces arise when running and especially when jumping from a great height. The calcaneus absorbs the forces and transmits them to the ground without collapsing.

Shear and twisting forces occur when the attached muscles and ligaments are stressed, e.g. B. when running and jumping and climbing when the toes are loaded. The calcaneus plays another important role in maintaining tension in the longitudinal arch of the foot.

Diseases & Ailments

The most common complaints associated with the heel bone are caused by a bony lower or upper heel spur (calcaneus spur) in the insertion area of ​​the Achilles tendon (upper spur) or the plantar tendon plate (lower spur).Painful irritation and inflammation of the affected tendon attachments can occur and cause considerable discomfort. Typical are morning start -up pains , which decrease again with movement. In this context, a total tear of the Achilles tendon as well as bursitis and Haglund’s syndrome or Haglund’s exostosis ( ganglionic bone ) should also be mentioned. Similar complaints can also be caused by arthrosis on the articular surfaces of the heel bone.

Rarely, the calcaneus may fracture from direct, violent impact or from fatigue, e.g. B. by falling from a height of several meters and landing unchecked directly on the heel. Heel bone fractures are usually so-called comminuted fractures that require surgical treatment (plates and nails). Congenital deformities of the foot and unsuitable footwear that is worn over a longer period of time can contribute to gradually increasing pain in the heel bone area.

Furthermore, primary tumors – originating directly from the bone cells – or secondary cancerous growths (daughter carcinomas) rarely form in the area of ​​the calcaneus. Bone cysts filled with tissue fluid occur just as rarely directly in the heel bone. They are usually benign but can cause discomfort when pressure is applied to the heel bone, i.e. discomfort when walking. Stabbing pain when walking can be caused by so-called plantar warts under the sole of the foot. Plantar warts form thorn-like extensions that cause a stabbing pain when walking.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.