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A warm or burning sensation in one or both feet can be caused by many issues. This sensation can vary from mild to severe and can be so problematic that it wakes people up at night. The burning can also be accompanied by a tingling sensation or numbness of the feet.


As mentioned, many issues can cause burning feet and these would need to be excluded in order to determine and manage the correct cause. These issues may include the following:

  • Diabetic neuropathy - this is nerve damage which is caused by excess glucose levels that damage the arteries supplying blood to the nerves of the feet.
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency - results in dysfunction of the nerves. Can occur in patients with gastrointestinal malabsorption disorders.
  • Chronic kidney injury.
  • Certain medications such as chemotherapeutic and anti-tuberculosis drugs.
  • Athlete's foot - a fungal infection which affects the skin of the feet.
  • Alcohol misuse - may cause vitamin B12 deficiency.
  • Thyroid disease such as hypothyroidism.
  • Complex regional pain syndrome - caused by a dysfunctional nervous system.
  • Tarsal tunnel syndrome - compression of the nerves which supply sensation to the feet may be affected.
  • Immunosuppressive diseases such as HIV/AIDS can lead to nerve damage.
  • Burning feet syndrome - will be discussed at the end.

When to see a doctor

The following scenarios warrant immediate medical attention and patients are encouraged to present to an emergency room as soon as possible.

  • The burning sensation in the foot/feet occurs suddenly, especially if a patient may have been exposed to a toxin.

  • If a patient is diabetic and an open wound, which is infected, is noticed.

It is suggested to consult a doctor if patients experience the following:

  • The foot related symptoms are becoming more painful and intense.
  • Patients are still experiencing burning sensations in the feet despite performing self-care for a few weeks.
  • There's the feeling that the toes and/or fingers are tingling or becoming numb.
  • The burning sensation has started spreading up the legs.


The following self-care procedures are suggested for patients who are experiencing burning feet:

  • Make use of open and comfortable shoes which don't compress the feet.
  • Rest the feet and elevate them when sitting or lying down.
  • Clean the feet with cool water.


Patients with burning feet will be managed according to the cause of their symptoms. It is therefore important to consult a doctor is order to assess the patient and to refer them for the appropriate tests and investigations to get to the correct diagnosis. 

Burning feet syndrome

Also called Grierson-Gopalan syndrome, burning feet syndrome is associated with the following symptoms:

  • Burning and aching sensation limited to the soles of the feet.
  • Increased sensitivity of the feet as well as a feeling of 'pins and needles'.
  • Vasomotor changes which can result in excessive sweating.
  • This condition can also affect the eyes which may result in issues such as amblyopia or scotomas.


The cause of this syndrome can be linked to a genetic predisposition or due to pressure being exerted on the feet and thus the nerves.

This syndrome has also been associated with auto-immune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and hypothyroidism.

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