21 Causes of Burning, Painful Feet

There are various causes for burning foot pain. Some are simple answers with easy solutions. Others are more complex problems that need medical attention. Here are 21 main causes for burning, itching, and tingling feet and tips on recognizing them and what can be done to help alleviate them.

1. Alcohol Use

People who consume excessive alcohol can develop a condition called alcoholic neuropathy, which causes foot pain, tingling, and weakness. Symptoms start in the extremities but eventually affect all nerves. Symptoms typically start simultaneously on both sides of the body, and nerve damage can happen over months or years before the patient experiences symptoms.

For effective treatment, the patient must abstain from alcohol and address any nutrient deficiencies, especially B vitamins, through a balanced diet. The sooner the patient seeks treatment, the better their results. Delayed treatment may result in permanent nerve damage.

2. Amyloid Polyneuropathy

Amyloid neuropathy first attacks small sensory and autonomic nerves and progresses to larger nerves over time. This hereditary disease is caused by abnormal protein deposits in bone marrow and other bodily tissues. If you have a family history of Amyloidosis, talk to your provider. Early detection helps manage symptoms.

3. Athlete’s Foot

Athlete’s foot is a fungus often picked up in locker rooms, showers, and other places people walk barefoot. The skin on your feet, between your toes, and around your toenails gets inflamed and can blister, crack, and peel. Toenails can grow thick and discolored.

Fortunately, there are several over-the-counter treatment options, including sprays, powders, and creams. If they don’t work, check with your provider. You may be treating the wrong condition or need more potent medicine.

4. Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease (CMT)

CMT is a hereditary nerve disease that attacks nerves that control your muscles. Over time, you can see muscle weakness, paralysis, and atrophy. If you have a family history of CMT, check with your provider for treatment options.

5. Chemotherapy

People with cancer have to make some tough choices as their treatment options often come with rough side effects. Chemo can cause nerve damage, especially in the extremities. If you are looking at chemotherapy as a method of treating your cancer, talk to your oncologist about the possible side effects and what you can do to lessen the discomfort.

Note: Chiropractic treatments can help chemo patients tolerate their treatment with fewer side effects.

6. Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP)

CIPD is an autoimmune disorder where the body’s immune system attacks the myelin sheaths (the insulating cover around the nerves). This is a chronic condition that can affect multiple bodily systems. Check with your provider about treatment options.

7. Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) happens after a traumatic injury to a limb where the nerves don’t communicate effectively with the brain.

8. Diabetic Neuropathy

High glucose levels can damage blood vessels that feed nerves throughout the body. You’ll notice symptoms in your feet first. If left untreated, the condition can spread to other body parts, including your organs. Eventually, you may lose sensation in your feet as the tissues die, leading to necrosis, amputation, blood poisoning, and possibly death.

The number one priority is to control your blood sugar through diet, exercise, and sometimes interventions with medications. As long as your blood sugar is out of control, your nerves will continue to deteriorate.

9. Erythromelalgia

Erythromelalgia is rare and has no known cause. Patients experience red, painful, hot feet that can flare up after exercise, changes in temperature, and standing too long.

10. Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS)

Guillain-Barre syndrome starts with tingling and weakness in your extremities, progressively worsening for several weeks. It’s generally considered an acute rather than chronic condition. If you have a rapid onset of progressive symptoms, see your provider.

11. Hypothyroidism

Thyroid hormone affects much of the body. If your thyroid isn’t functioning properly and you don’t get enough hormone, it can damage your nerves. Peripheral neuropathy is often an early symptom, as is sluggishness and trouble regulating your body temperature. Hypothyroidism is easily diagnosed with a blood test.

12. Infectious diseases

Various infectious diseases can cause nerve damage, including:

  • Lyme disease
  • Shingles
  • Syphilis
  • HIV

If you have an infection, (localized swelling that spreads, localized heat, elevated temperature) see your provider as soon as possible to see if it could be something more serious and find out if there is a need for medical intervention.

13. Kidney Disease

Kidney disease can lead to nutrient deficiencies, toxin buildup in the body, and other complications, leading to burning and swelling of the feet and legs. Advanced kidney disease may require dialysis and a kidney transplant.

14. Nutritional Deficiencies

Deficiencies of B vitamins in the diet can cause burning in the feet, shortness of breath, dizziness, and fatigue. Your provider can check for vitamin deficiencies with a blood test.

15. Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) causes stiff and narrow arteries that would otherwise feed the nerves in the legs and feet. As nerves are starved of nutrients and oxygen, the damaged nerves can make standing and walking painful.

16. Sarcoidosis

Sarcoidosis is a disease where tiny growths of inflammatory cells (granulomas) form in body tissues. While the cause is unknown, they suspect it’s an overreaction of the body to an unknown substance, such as chemicals, or against the body’s own proteins. They don’t always affect the feet, but they can. The condition is incurable, but patients can go for years without needing treatment.

17. Shoes

Wearing the wrong shoes for long periods can cause friction, uneven pressure on nerves, and general misery. If your shoes hurt, find ones that fit you better.

If you already suffer from neuropathy and your shoes leave blisters or other signs of damage, it is essential that you get better-fitted shoes as soon as possible, as the wounds on your feet are slower to heal and can lead to infection. Look for adequate room around the toes and cushioned soles with a properly fitted arch support. Check your feet daily for signs of injury.

18. Small Fiber Neuropathy

Small fiber neuropathy is a deterioration of the myelin sheath on the small nerves in your feet. Your provider must determine the underlying cause before treatment options are clear. Causes include:

  • Genetics
  • Toxins
  • Infections
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Metabolic diseases

19. Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

Swelling after a traumatic injury can pinch a nerve running down the leg to the feet. Similar to carpal tunnel. Other causes include:

  • High arches
  • Flat feet.
  • Sprained or fractured ankle
  • Lipomas, cysts, or tumors near the tibial nerve.
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes

20. Toxin Exposure

Heavy metals, some chemicals, and some medications can cause peripheral neuropathy. Finding the cause and stopping exposure where possible is critical to recovery. Long-term exposure could lead to permanent damage.

21. Vasculitis (inflammation of blood vessels)

Like Peripheral Artery Disease, inflammation causes the blood vessels to narrow, starving the nerves.

Last Thoughts

The best treatment for your burning, foot pain depends on finding the underlying cause. There may be multiple contributing factors, like diabetic neuropathy and vitamin deficiencies. The sooner you seek treatment, the better your prognosis and pain management can be.


The information, including but not limited to, texts, graphics, images, and other material contained in this article are for informational purposes only. None of the material mentioned is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new care regimen. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.

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