Heel bursitis is a painful condition that affects the bursa located between your heel bone and Achilles tendon. It can affect your ability to move your foot or ankle. Physical therapy or surgery can effectively treat heel bursitis.
A bursa is a small, slippery sac in your body that’s filled with fluid. Bursae (plural form of bursa) act as a cushion and lubricant. They protect bones from rubbing or sliding against tendons, muscles or skin.
There’s a bursa behind both of your ankles near your heel bone (calcaneus). It’s located in the space between your heel bone and your Achilles tendon. It’s called the retrocalcaneal (behind the heel) bursa.
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It most frequently affects people who overuse their ankles without proper conditioning. A sudden increase in walking, running or jumping can cause heel bursitis.
It is important to wear proper footwear, especially when practicing a sport or exercising. Tight-fitting shoes can cause heel bursitis.
Heel bursitis can also affect those who have other disorders, including:
Heel bursitis is a common condition. It frequently occurs in athletes who run a lot. It also affects athletes who perform repetitive foot and ankle movements, like dancing.
Heel bursitis can be painful. If you have heel bursitis, it can be difficult to make certain movements. Walking, running and jumping may be painful.
Symptoms of heel bursitis may include:
Heel bursitis has many causes:
Heel bursitis is not contagious. In rare cases, a bacterial infection can cause heel bursitis. But this infection isn’t passed from person to person. It typically happens when Staphylococcus(staph) bacteria enters the body from a cut near your foot. It is important to wash small open wounds with clean running water and soap. Then, use a cotton swab to apply a small amount of petroleum jelly (Vaseline™) or skin care ointment (Aquaphor™) over the wound, and cover it with an adhesive bandage to prevent dirt or bacteria from entering the area.
Before examining your foot, your healthcare provider may ask several questions, including:
Your healthcare provider will examine your foot. They will:
If your healthcare provider suspects that you have a bacterial infection, they may:
Imaging tests can help your healthcare provider confirm heel bursitis. They may include:
Heel bursitis treatment depends on what’s causing your pain. Treatment may include:
You can relieve pain and inflammation with:
In most cases, you should feel better after several weeks of proper treatment.
You can reduce your risk of developing heel bursitis by:
With proper diagnosis and treatment, the outlook for people with heel bursitis is good. Most people feel better after two to three weeks of home treatment. More serious cases may take six to 12 months.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Heel bursitis is a common injury in athletes, active people and people who stand a lot. If you have pain in or around your heel, talk to your healthcare provider. Rest, stretching and strengthening exercises may reduce pain in your foot and ankle. If conservative treatment doesn’t provide relief or if heel pain develops at the same as a fever or chills, talk to your healthcare provider.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/17/2021.
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