What is Foot Bursitis?

Bursitis refers to an inflammation otherwise referred to as a “bursa,” that occurs close to a joint, tendon or bone. Usually, the bursa is a small and fluid-filled tissue that can be prone to many issues. For instance, the bursa which protects the given area can suffer from inflammation or irritation. Usually, these occur due to poor habits such as wearing tight or improperly fitting shoes, rather than non binding ones, which will provide you with some wiggle room. The common signs of bursitis include swelling, pain, redness, and more. The treatment and management process of the foot complication also varies based on various factors. More so, the condition also commonly affects areas of the body such as the elbow, buttocks, calves, and knees.

The primary function of the bursae is to help control friction between the tendons, joints, and even the skin. Furthermore, the bursae are located on the elbows, hips, knees, and shoulders. Left unchecked, bursitis can become chronic and cause a significant compromise to your life. It can lead to issues such as reduced range of motion or even compromised tendon strength. Thus, it’s important that you address the complication using the proper prevention and management methods.

There are several risk factors associated with foot bursitis. Among some of these common factors include age, presence of other diseases and overusing the joints in the body. People who have diseases such as tendonitis, diabetes, gout and more, are likely to develop bursitis. These are conditions that increase the amount of pressure in the sacs around the joints.

Causes of Bursitis

Bursitis occurs due to repetitive use or trauma. Furthermore, it can also be associated with an issue such as gout or arthritis. In some cases, the complication can be treated using remedies such as rest, ice packs, and anti-inflammatory medicines. When the difficulty becomes chronic, the treatment process might involve administering cortisone injections to the affected area. A bursa that becomes infected might require treatment using antibiotics.

Bursitis is a common foot health complication that can result from intense physical activities or even repetitive movement. Traumatic injury is also another common cause of bursitis. When inflammation occurs, this can irritate the bursa due to the decreased space in the original area between the bone and the muscles. Thus, when the bone pressure increases on the bursa, the condition is referred to as bursitis.

Furthermore, the condition can also be caused by an issue such as:

  • Poor posture and walking habits – such tendencies place the intense pressure on the muscles and the bones, thus leading to inflammation.
  • Intense pressure on the soft tissue – usually, the intense pressure occurs in the foot due to issues such as poorly positioned bones.
  • Types of arthritis complications – arthritis complications such as osteoarthritis are commonly known for leading to bursitis. These types of arthritis affect the structure of the bones and muscles, thus compromising the fluid-filled sacs that act as cushions.
  • Metabolic complications such as diabetes – diabetes is a metabolic health complication that can compromise the structure of bones and muscles.
  • Side effects from over-consuming certain medicines – over-consuming certain medications can affect the performance of the immune system, and the strength of bones as well.
  • Age – while anyone can get bursitis, the risk of the health complication increases over the years. This because to age related muscle and bone degeneration, along with poor lifestyle habits.
  • Infection – an infected bursa may come about if the skin around the affected area is cracked or injured, thus increase the invasion of bacteria. Usually, this is a major concern for individuals who have compromised immune systems, such as people with diabetes.
  • Physical condition – people who have poor physical conditions or are perhaps overweight are likely to develop bursitis in the foot.
  • Overuse of the joint – any repetitive motion or stress on a joint area can lead to bursitis. The condition is common among individuals such as athletes or professional floor tile workers. A trauma to bursa can lead to bursitis.

NB: Since the pain often occurs around the joint, it is usually easy for one to mistake bursitis for arthritis. That said, bursitis is an inflammation of the fluid sacs that act as cushions for the bones and muscles.

Types of Bursitis

Bursitis complications occur in two main types, with distinct characteristics. They include:

  1. Anterior Achilles tendon bursitis – the Achilles tendon is the muscle area around the heel and the calf. It is the largest tendon in the body. However, when the muscle is overused or affected by disease, the bursa where the tendon connects to the heel may become inflamed.
  2. Posterior Achilles tendon bursitis – this type of bursitis affects the bursa that is found on the Achilles tendon and the skin. The condition usually affects young women. Furthermore, it often occurs due to the shoe rubbing against the heel, thereby causing inflammation of the bursa.



The signs and symptoms associated with bursitis can be many and varied. The condition might lead to tenderness or pain around the joint area. Usually, the pain might occur around sections such as the ligaments, bursae, muscles, and more. Some of these issues can occur suddenly, or even persist for several days, and will resolve with proper management. Broadly speaking

The symptoms of bursitis in the foot can include:

  • Ache or stiffness in the heel – the pain or stiffness occurs due to the inflammation of the fluid sac that acts a cushion for the muscle and bones.
  • Swelling – this is a natural response by the body to physical complications such as poor bone health.
  • Warmth around the affected area – the affected area might also be slightly warmer than other sections of the body due to the pain and inflammation.


There are various types of bursitis, which have as many different characteristics. The common ones include prepatellar, infrapatellar, trochanteric, and olecranon bursitis. A foot health specialist or podiatrist can diagnose most of the soft tissue complications based on your medical history and a physical exam. If you come across any added redness or swelling on the joint area, the consult with a medical health professional.

The diagnosis process involves evaluation of the feet by a competent podiatrist. The symptoms of the health complication are not often specific, and can be caused by other factors. As such, the podiatrist will have to consider starting out with ruling out any other potential causes of the issue. An x-ray of the foot will show if the foot has a swollen bursa, or perhaps help to rule out other complications such as bone spurring.

Most of the time, diagnosing the condition does not require any imaging studies. That said, you might have to MRI scans, if the physical exam is not suitable for the process. Conducting lab tests is also beneficial when you suspect the feet of bursitis. If you come across any inflammation, then you might have to undergo a blood test to determine the extent of the injury. More so, the blood test might also help rule associated complications such as rheumatoid arthritis.

The podiatrist might also perform additional lab tests if they suspect instances of bursitis. More so, if you have inflammation, the podiatrist will perform a secondary test to determine the extent of the injury. In some instances, the podiatrist will extract some fluid using a syringe for secondary evaluation.


While bursitis might resolve itself naturally over time, if the symptoms persist, then you might have to consider secondary measures. Usually, the first line of treatment involves reducing any pain and inflammation, while maintaining mobility around the affected area. The medical professional might refer you to a rheumatologist or a physical therapist for added treatment. When appropriately treated, usually, these health conditions won`t lead to secondary joint damage. The typical treatment approaches include:

An equally important aspect of the treatment process is to identify infected and non-infected bursitis. In some cases, one might be suffering from cellulitis, which may be accompanied by a fever. Bursitis conditions that are not infected are treatable with techniques such as rest, ice, elevation, and anti-inflammatory medications. More so, since the condition occurs as a result of increased friction from adjacent body parts, using compression solutions is not recommended. This because such compression solutions can lead to increased friction around the affected area.

More often than not, you can usually do something yourself in order to increase your comfort. Let’s say that the affected area is your heel, then you would do well to temporarily switch to footwear that has no heel, such as flip flops. If it just so happens to be winter instead of summer and you don’t want to get cold feet, then you may want to have a look at roomy slippers instead.

Your doctor might address the chronic forms of bursitis through techniques such as aspiration an bursectomy. The bursectomy process involves cutting out the bursa through special surgery techniques. The bursa will regrow after a few weeks, based on proper antibiotic treatment. Any bursae that is infected might require secondary treatment and techniques such as antibiotic treatments. For patients that don’t respond to any form of conservative treatment, surgical therapy might be required. The other suitable treatment methods for bursitis include:

Rests and Splints

Most soft tissue complications occur due to overuse of the muscles. As such, the first line of treatment involves resting the affected area. More so, it might also involve avoiding any form of physical activity for a specific time period. Using braces, splints or slings can be beneficial in alleviating pain on the affected area.

Hot and Cold Therapy

Hot or cold therapy? That is the question! Using a cold compress is beneficial in controlling any pain and swelling. The cold therapy is particularly useful during the first few hours after the injury or foot complication. Consider using  ice cubes wrapped in a light cotton cloth, and applying it to the affected area. However, after about two days of chronic pain, then dry or moist heat might also be beneficial. For heat therapy, place the light cotton cloth in some hot water. Then, place it on the affected section of the foot.

Over the Counter and Prescription Medications

These are medications that help to manage and relieve pain or inflammation issue. The medical health professional might recommend over the counter analgesics. These analgesics can include acetaminophen or a non-steroidal (NDAID) drugs such as naproxen. Based on the physical exam and your specific health characteristics, the doctor might recommend a powerful version of the NSAIDs.

Corticosteroid Injections

These are powerful anti-inflammatory medications that you can inject directly to a joint. While slightly painful, these are powerful for addressing issues such as internal pain. However, these are injections recommended for people such as athletes that have to resume normal day-to-day activities.

Physical Therapy

This refers to a set of specific techniques that you can use to rehabilitate the functionality of muscles and bones in the feet. Such an intervention method for foot bursitis involves myriad forms of physical health treatment. The therapist might recommend the following:

  • Hot/cold treatments, water and laser therapy
  • Joint and soft tissue mobilization techniques to relieve pain
  • Use pressure relieving devices and orthotics around the affected area
  • Developing a personalized workout schedule
  • Evaluating your walking and posture
  • Education relating to the specific activities to promote optimal healing
  • Occupational therapy which involves making adjustments to your daily activities


Perhaps one of the best ways to address bursitis complications will involve taking a proactive role in the treatment process. Otherwise referred to as self-care, bursitis is a foot complication that arises due to overuse. As such, the best way to address such a foot complication is to avoid or adjust the activities that cause stress around the affected area. Your foot health specialist will recommend specific meals and techniques for the self-care process. Maintaining proper body weight can also help to reduce the pressure on swollen and painful joints in the body. Even more, range of motion exercises also help to enhance flexibility, and to curtail stiffness.


When it comes to addressing foot health complications, staying savvy and making improvised decisions is important. In this case, being able to prevent bursitis means that you have to consume the proper diet and take good care of your physical health. Furthermore, being able to identify the complication early is an important aspect of treatment and recovery. Using any compression solutions such as bandages is not recommended, since this might lead to more inflammation. Most importantly, consider consulting with your medical practitioner if all conservative treatments fail.

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About the Author

Hi, I’m Brian Bradshaw. I’m a super duper mega hiking enthusiast, with a love for everything that has to do with outdoors, hiking, gear, footwear and more.

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