The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Mountaineering News: Walking on a Broken Foot, Woman Climbs Mt. Kilimanjaro

Posted by on Wednesday, November 18th, 2015


We get a lot of questions at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine from active patients who want to stick with their current plans — be it a vacation or mountain climb — even though they’ve recently injured their foot or ankle. They want to know how soon is “too soon” to push it, what they can realistically accomplish given their state of injury, and whether or not we think it’d be prudent for them to go ahead and follow their hearts’ desires. These are all good questions. The recent story of a woman who climbed a mountain with a broken foot illustrates what CAN be possible, though it’s not what we’d recommend for everyone.

walking on a broken foot
Imagine scaling this terrain walking on a broken foot! Image Source: Flickr CC user ActiveFree

What Happened to Diane Keen?

You may know Actress Diane Keen if you’re a fan of the BBC soap “Doctors.” The 69-year-old most recently played Julia Parsons on the show for 10 years, but got her start in 70s and 80s sitcoms “The Cuckoo Waltz” and “Rings On Their Fingers.”

As a divorced single mother, she had her heart set on scaling the 19,341 feet of Mount Kilimanjaro and had spent the last year training for the epic climb. In June — two weeks before her scheduled departure to Tanzania — she suffered what she called “a freak accident.”

She told British reporters, “One night, I went to put my foot down on a stair and misjudged it, rolling my foot over in the process. It was throbbing like mad and when I looked next morning, I couldn’t believe it. My foot looked almost alien. It didn’t look like it belonged to a human being!”1

Like many people, Keen said she “avoided the doctor” because she knew he’d “confirm it was serious and stop me flying.” So, she took it easy for five days, keeping ice packs and compression wraps on her oft-elevated foot. Painkillers took the edge off. The swelling did go down and she was able to hobble along with climbing sticks after a few days.

“When the day of the trip arrived I was still in awful pain. But I managed to get my trekking boots on and headed to Heathrow on July 9 for the 10 day trip,” she recalled. Thankfully, she wasn’t going alone. As a patron of Lion Aid, she was scheduled for a charity climb with 28 other people, including her goddaughter and her sister.

What’s It Like Walking on a Broken Foot?

As one climbing tour operator explains, “Although Mount Kilimanjaro is known as a ‘walk-up’ mountain, you should not underestimate it and its risks. The overall statistics show that less than half of all climbers reach the summit.”2

Their route would take 7 days and it wouldn’t be easy. Not only would Keen face the physical challenges of sustained rigorous activity, but she would have to contend with the coughs and chest infections associated with altitude sickness, not to mention the freezing cold temperatures at night, too.

Because of her bum foot, Keen struggled along three hours behind the pack. “It was a very painful experience,” she said. “What helped me get through the pain were my sturdy boots because they held my foot in place and meant I was able to complete the climb, albeit very slowly.” She added that it was actually more difficult coming back down again due to the constant pressure placed on the toes.

The Aftermath

When she arrived back home, she finally went to see the doctor who sent her to the hospital for an x-ray. They told her she had badly fractured two outside bones on her left foot — including one that was jagged and sticking out. They put her foot in an air boot for six weeks to straighten out the bone.

In a terrible stroke of luck, Keen took a spill in the garage and damaged the ligaments in her right foot — which swelled up and turned black. So now she was nursing two injuries at once! At the time, Keen was touring in the play “You’re Never Too Old,” so the director had to amend her role so she was seated the whole time.

Despite these setbacks, the actress firmly believes in leading an active lifestyle. “Going to the gym has become part of my life,” she says. “I also do other forms of exercise, including swimming with friends. It’s social, great exercise and gentle on your muscles and bones.”

NYC Foot Injury Treatment

Diane Keen is one tough cookie! The first few weeks of fracture care are especially crucial. Aggressively tackling the swelling during that time and investing in the right kind of supportive footwear is probably what saved Ms. Keen from suffering long-term damage.3 It was also wise of her to eventually seek professional medical care, as the jagged protruding bone would not have healed without proper treatment.

The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in NYC offers a full range of treatments for NYC foot injuries from strains and sprains to fractures and traumatic accidents. We have all the necessary diagnostic tools in-house, so you won’t have to visit the emergency room for an x-ray. We accept most major insurances, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, to help subsidize your care. In addition to conventional physical therapy, we offer the latest technological advances, including non-invasive ultrasound therapy and platelet-rich plasma injections that stimulate healing. Contact us if you live in the Manhattan or Westchester metropolitan areas.




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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.