Hot Feet Sensation: Why Does it Happen?

The sensation of hot feet can be due to a multitude of reasons. In some cases, it's just inappropriate footwear, but other times it's associated with health problems that can be serious.
Hot Feet Sensation: Why Does it Happen?

Last update: 10 October, 2021

Hot feet sensation is a relatively common condition. Sometimes it’s accompanied by tingling, numbness, and also pain in the area. However, it’s a symptom you should pay attention to. It doesn’t always represent a serious health problem, but you shouldn’t overlook it either.

The reasons for experiencing this sensation are varied. In many cases, it’s due to problems in the nerves of the feet. However, you shouldn’t rule out other underlying causes. In any case, it’s not normal to feel your feet burning.

If you feel like your feet are burning, you should ask your doctor. The first indication will be a simple change of shoes in mild cases, or they’ll request studies for the nervous or circulatory system if there’s suspicion of greater severity.

Hot feet sensation

Those who feel that their feet burn generally experience this sensation on the sole of the foot, although burning also appears on the back of the foot and even on the ankles. Sometimes, the sensation of heat reaches as far as the back of the leg.

Most commonly, there’s also a tingling sensation, or it feels like needle pricks in the same area where the heat is experienced. The sensation becomes intolerable to the point that you feel the need to rest your feet on a cold surface.

In some cases, this sensation is sporadic and transient, but at other times it becomes frequent. The latter scenario is a symptom of what is known as Grierson-Gopalan syndrome or burning feet syndrome. One of the distinguishing features is that the sensation worsens at night and improves during the day.

A woman putting cream on her feet
Pain, burning, stinging, and tingling in the feet are often mistaken as symptoms.

The main causes of burning feet

The main reasons for burning feet are the following:

  • Peripheral neuropathy: This is a condition in which there are damaged nerve fibers, so more intense activity causes heat and pain. Most commonly this is accompanied by numbness and tingling.
  • Circulatory problems: The burning sensation in the feet appears when there is an increase in the production of red blood cells. This causes the blood to thicken, generating heat, especially when going to bed.
  • Skin problems: Sometimes, the burning sensation doesn’t come from inside the body, but originates from a skin problem, such as dermatitis, fungus, or allergies. This is usually accompanied by blisters, ulcers, rashes, or other skin manifestations.
  • Vitamin B deficiency: Doctors believe that the lack of vitamins B12, B3, B1, and B6 is one of the most frequent causes of the burning sensation in the feet, due to the alteration of the metabolism that it entails.

All these causes can be primary or secondary. In other words, they’re the direct origin of the problem or they could be the result of an underlying disease. For example, diabetes is often the cause of peripheral neuropathy.

A foot in a mirror
The presence of peripheral neuropathy requires an immediate professional evaluation to avoid serious long-term consequences.

More reasons

There are other reasons why burning feet occur, although they’re less prevalent than those mentioned above. Some of them may be the following:

  • Hormonal changes: In the days before menstruation and during menstruation, women may feel an increase in temperature in the feet.
  • Neurological problems: Diseases of the spine or spinal cord cause the sensation of heat in the feet. It is usually accompanied by pain in the skin.
  • Plantar fasciitis: Fasciitis is an inflammation of the fascia, a tissue that extends from the heel to the toes, on the sole of the foot. This condition causes burning and discomfort when walking or running.
  • Infections: Invading microorganisms that cause inflammation in the peripheral nerves cause pain, tingling, and heat in the area. This occurs in cases of herpes zoster, mononucleosis, and Guillain-Barré syndrome.
  • Tarsal tunnel syndrome: This occurs when the tibial nerve is compressed in the tarsal tunnel area on the sole of the foot.
  • Gitelman’s syndrome: This is due to low levels of magnesium and potassium.

Various causes of hot feet require medical consultation

As you can see, many causes can give rise to the sensation of burning feet. For the same reason, it’s essential to consult a doctor to explore the reason for this annoying symptom.

The professional will request the necessary complementary studies and will initiate appropriate treatment. If the cause is minor, perhaps a small change of habits will be enough to solve the problem.

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