Bursitis is the inflammation or irritation of your bursa, the fluid-filled cushions that protect your body’s joints. These cushions help you absorb shock, keep your joints moving smoothly, and prevent irritation from where your tendons and ligaments pass over your bones. 

However, when your bursa become inflamed and your ability to absorb shock decreases, the area around your joints also becomes irritated and inflamed. This can cause tenderness or pain and can limit your motion. Bursitis most commonly affects the elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, and feet. This article focuses on its effects on the feet and legs. 

Causes and Symptoms 

Bursitis can be caused by: 

  • Aging. Your bursa’s ability to absorb shock can wear out as you age. 
  • Trauma, such as from a sports injury. 
  • Too much repetitive motion of your joints, such as from over-exercising. Even with exercise, there can be too much of a good thing! 
  • A sudden twisting or rapid joint movement. 
  • Overusing a joint, such as going up and down stairs too often.  

Bursitis primarily affects joints in your feet and lower body. 


  • Heel 
  • Ball of foot 
  • Base of big toe joint 

Wondering if you have bursitis? Keep reading to perform some simple self-assessments. 

Self-Assessment Quiz

To see if you might have bursitis in any of the joints of your lower body, ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Do I feel pain in any of my joints? 
  • Are any of my joints inflamed or swollen? 
  • Do I feel heat emanating from the painful area? 
  • Can I only move my joint in a limited fashion, or not at all? 
  • Are my muscles weakened around the joint? 
  • Do I feel increased joint pain in the morning, or after not moving the joint for a long period of time? 

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions you may have bursitis. 

If the symptoms seem specific to your feet, ask yourself these additional questions to see if you have bursitis located in the joints of your feet: 

  • Do my feet ache? 
  • Do I have difficulty moving my feet? 
  • Are the joints of my feet inflamed or swollen? 

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may have bursitis in your feet. 

Are There Any Serious Concerns with Bursitis? 

Watch out for two specialized forms of bursitis that may specifically impact your knees and your hips. 

Pes Anserine Bursitis – The pes anserine is a tendon in your knee formed by three muscles (the gracilis and sartorius muscles in your groin, and the semitendinosus muscle in the hamstring) that can become inflamed through excessive friction if you overuse your knee joints. With this form of bursitis, you may feel swelling and pain on the inside and front of the knee. 

Greater Trochanteric Bursitis – When your iliotibial band (a thick tissue extending from your knee to your hip) and your greater trochanter (which is part of your femur) rub together in your hip, your bursa can become irritated and inflamed, usually from activities that involve continual repetitive motion. This results in a dull intermittent pain on the outside of your hip which may increase when you stand or lie on the affected side. 

Treatment and Prevention 

Fortunately, bursitis is easy to treat and prevent. Try the following remedies: 

  • Rest your joints, especially if you’ve been overusing them. 
  • Stop any strenuous activities that involve the use of your affected joint, such as exercise or walking up and down stairs. 
  • Apply ice or cold packs to your joint every 15 minutes to help reduce swelling and inflammation. You may also want to use creams (such as a menthol-based cream) as part of your cold therapy. 
  • Use cushioned insoles in your shoes to help you absorb shock in your joints. 
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or naproxen as needed. You might also consider using a pain relief topical analgesic gel that allows you to also massage your joints. 
  • Perform motion and stretching exercises that you can manage without excessive pain. Use these exercises to help strengthen your muscles and alleviate irritation and discomfort.  

If your bursitis is located in your feet: 

  • Use cushioned insoles and padding to help relieve places in your shoes where you feel pressure. 
  • Use deep cushioning heel cups to help provide additional shock absorption. 
  • Wear comfortable shoes that fit your feet. 
  • If your bursitis pain is located in the ball of your foot or toes, wear shoes with a large toe box. 

If your bursitis persists or gets worse, make an appointment with your doctor. You may need anti-inflammatory medicines such as cortisone or steroids to help shrink the bursa, such as a corticosteroid injection to relieve severe irritation. 

This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult your health care provider on all matters relating to this or any other condition that may affect your health.