Bursitis in the Foot

What is it?

Bursa are small, fluid-filled sacs that lie between tendon and bone. They are all around the body and their main role is to reduce friction between the two structures. Foot bursitis can be in many places in the foot.

Bursitis is an inflammation of a bursa.

Here are some of the bursa in the feet:

                 Foot bursitis at heelFoot bursitis from underneath

What causes the bursa to become inflamed?

Bursitis in the foot is often a result of footwear:

  • tight shoes against the retrocalcaneal and subcutaneous bursae
  • high heels or narrow shoes compressing the forefoot bones, increasing pressure on the metatarsal bursa
  • changing from regularly wearing high heels to mostly wearing flat shoes

Commonly, there is a recent change in activity as well.
E.g. increase in exercise levels, change from a sedentary to an active job.

Other factors that increase your likelihood of developing bursitis in the foot are:
– Achilles tendinopathy
– Hammertoes
– Bunions
– Haglund’s deformity

What does it feel like?

Pain tends to be worse with tight shoes and when doing higher impact activity (e.g. jump, run, or even just walking). It will likely increase in intensity over time, unless the causative factors are addressed.
Other symptoms include redness, swelling, warmth, tenderness to touch the area.

How do I know if it’s bursitis?

If your symptoms fit the above explanation, and respond to anti-inflammatory measures then it is a likely diagnosis. This could include reduction of strain on the area (changing footwear, reducing aggravating activities), ice, medication (check with GP if you’re unsure whether you can take anti-inflammatories).
There are many other structures in the foot that could be causing your pain. Therefore an assessment from a healthcare professional can be helpful to confirm the diagnosis.

It’s also important to rule out infection or inflammatory conditions such as gout or Rheumatoid Arthritis. Normally with these, your symptoms will be more constant rather than vary in intensity depending what you’re doing. If you have any concerns, contact your doctor.

What can Back In Action Physio do?

The goal of treatment is to offload the affected bursa to reduce inflammation. We can help achieve this through use of taping, orthotics, muscle release, advice around how to modify your daily activity. As it improves, it is important that the return to normal tasks, work, exercise is gradual to reduce the likelihood of symptoms returning. Your physio will guide you through a progressive rehab program that’s appropriate for you and your goals.
If there are long term biomechanical or structural influences that need to be addressed, we may refer you to Footfit Podiatry for best management options and advice.