What to Do if You Have Metatarsal Bursitis

Bursitis is a common foot ailment that can cause considerable discomfort and pain to everyone and especially runners. Sadly, it is not often discussed, or at least not as often as tendon tears or ligament problems, but today I intended to fix that.

In this article, I will be going into detail on what metatarsal bursitis is, how to recognize if you have it and how to deal with it. I’m doing this in the hopes that it will help people get better and keep on running. 

Maybe, you need to find A pair of shoes, you can see here.


So, let me get started with the basics.

What is Metatarsal Bursitis?

Metatarsal Bursitis

Most people have never heard of metatarsal bursitis, and I don’t necessarily blame them. Despite it being a rather common condition it is rarely talked about or even noticed, so it’s no wonder that awareness about it is low. Still, it is an issue that can greatly impact your health and comfort, especially if you’re a runner, so you should know about it.

To properly explain what metatarsal bursitis is, though, I must first go over what bursae are. A bursa is a cushioning sac filled with fluid that is located near muscles, skin, tendons or ligaments that would be rubbing directly against the surface of a bone. They work to absorb shock and prevent damage that would be caused by friction, decreasing the wear and tear of any moving structures in your body.

There are around 160 bursae in your body, and they secrete a substance that is similar to an egg white. However, additional bursae can form as they’re needed, usually as a result of added stress on a particular body part or joint. Runners tend to develop additional bursae because of this, and that can put them at an added risk for metatarsal bursitis or other kinds of bursitis. But what is bursitis?

Metatarsal Bursitis

Well, in short, bursitis is the inflammation of a bursa in any part of the body, and specific versions are depending on where the inflamed bursa is located. Metatarsal bursitis refers to a kind of foot bursitis that affects the bursa located near the metatarsal bones, the long bones that connect the base of your foot with the toes.

It can occur near the base of the foot at the bottom of the toes. Most commonly, it affects the bursa located at the toe directly next to the big toe. Another sub-type of metatarsal bursitis that you can get is called intermetatarsal bursitis – it affects the numerous small bursa located between the metatarsal bones, inside the intermetatarsal spaces.

Depending on how much pressure your feet are under, you could have a lot of these intermetatarsal bursae, and runners tend to have plenty of them.

But, how does a bursa become inflamed in the first place and what are the symptoms? Well, I was just getting to that.

What Causes Metatarsal Bursitis?

Many different things can cause bursitis in your feet, and some of them can easily be prevented while others are more a matter of chance.

One of the causes of metatarsal bursitis is an injury to the foot – this could be a sports-related injury or anything else. It could be an automobile accident or a simple fall – even a nasty twist of the foot caused by stepping awkwardly can be the cause. You can only try to be careful and hope none of these things happen to you. Most of the time, they don’t.

However, a far more common cause of bursitis in the feet is repeated stress and pressure to the feet. This can be from prolonged standing or frequent running and so on. Overuse of your feet puts you at particularly high risk, so you should make sure to get enough rest instead of overdoing it with your running schedule.

Another common cause of this condition (as is the case with most foot conditions), are bad shoes. Shoes that are too tight for you or ones that make your feet sit awkwardly on them can increase the risk of this condition developing.

This is even worse when it comes to bad running shoes or sports shoes in general. Since repeated pressure and stress are the main cause of bursitis, having running shoes which don’t absorb shock properly can put too much strain on the brusa. Wearing the best shoes for metatarsalgia can help mitigate the risk.

Obesity is another factor which increases the risk of bursitis by increasing the pressure your feet have to endure and compounds upon all the other risk factors.


These are all things you can affect in one way or another, but there are also things that can’t be so easily remedied. Various other foot deformities and conditions can increase the risk of metatarsal bursitis by increasing the punishment your bursae have to take. This could be either due to different bone structure, bone and muscle deformities or whatever else.

However, even if you are at great risk of getting metatarsal bursitis, you still might not develop it – but the opposite is also true. Because of that, you should always look out for the telltale symptoms. What are they? Well, that’s what I’ll talk about right now.

How do I know if I Have It?

Symptoms of acute metatarsal bursitis usually include some pain, swelling, tenderness, redness, and warmth around the inflicted area, as is the case with any inflammation. Because of that, it might seem like a wide variety of other things at first.

The other symptoms also don’t point directly to bursitis as the cause. The pain will get worse if you walk barefoot, wear tight socks or tight shoes, run, jump, flex or stretch the foot and so on.

Symptoms of chronic bursitis are a bit different and less severe – they also require different treatment. You won’t have most of the acute symptoms, but you will still feel some aching pain as well as stiffness. Your circulation will be impaired, and your foot will feel sensitive to cold and dampness.

As you see, these symptoms can be attributed to many other things – sprains, tendon tears, or even broken bones. Because of that, it’s essential that you get checked out as soon as you notice the symptoms, instead of waiting for it to get better in a few days and just applying ice packs (though that can help, but more about that later).

There are plenty of things which are used to treat other conditions with similar symptoms that can be harmful instead of helpful when it comes to bursitis. It’s best not to risk it and get your foot in an even worse condition.

However, if you’re sure you have bursitis, you can treat it at home – but more about that in the next section.

What Can I do if I have Metatarsal Bursitis?

There are a few different treatments that you can apply at home to treat both acute and chronic metatarsal bursitis. I will go over them in order, starting with acute bursitis.

The treatment of acute metatarsal bursitis is relatively simple. As a first-aid, you should apply some ice to reduce the swelling. However, you shouldn’t keep applying ice too much since this can lead to the stagnation of blood and development of chronic bursitis. Also, elevate the foot and rest.

Don’t apply any compression, as you would with other similar conditions since this can make bursitis worse. It would increase the friction around the joint and that’s not what you want. Don’t apply the usual metatarsalgia treatment at home.

When you are able, go to a doctor to diagnose you thoroughly.

In the case of chronic bursitis, many treatments can be applied. Massages with herbal oils are quite effective since they can increase blood flow.

Your doctor might also recommend therapeutic shoes, but regular shoes and sneakers with a wide toe box should be effective as well as the best walking shoes for metatarsalgia. Padding or orthotics might also be prescribed. The best insoles for metatarsalgia might also be helpful.

In severe cases, metatarsal surgery may be required, but that is not often the case. In any case, you should apply a lot of rest and shouldn’t return to your running or sports activities too soon, since that can make the problem much, much worse.


So, that’s about all I can tell you about bursitis, though you should ask in the comments if you have some further questions about the condition or if you have some advice about it for other people.

Either way, I hope you enjoyed the article and that it was helpful to you. If that’s the case, I managed to do my job well, and I’m glad I was able to help. Stay safe and keep on running!

Bella Williams

Hi! I'm Bella. I love running. I write this blog to share everyone about running.

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