Burning Feet While Running (Explained)
What causes burning feet while running?
Runners can deal with a lot of different ailments from plantar fasciitis, leg cramps, iliotibial band syndrome, or even exercise-induced asthma. One frustrating issue is numb or burning feet while running.
Some of these issues may require seeing your doctor, but in some cases, there are simple home remedies you can try first.
There are a couple of common things that can cause your feet to burn or tingle while running.
Poor-fitting running shoes
One common cause of burning feet while running is that your running shoes don’t fit properly and are either too tight or too loose.
If your running shoes are too small, or if you tie your running shoes too tight, then the compression from the shoes can irritate the nerves in your feet or compress and slow blood flow into the feet. The simple solution is to get running shoes that are fit properly from your local running shoe store.
You make also notice that you start to get “hot feet” or burning feet after adding arch support or a custom orthotic to your running shoe since the insert will decrease the amount of room for your foot. If you’re adding a show insert, its important to make sure you have the proper fit AFTER adding the shoe insert for your running shoes.
Having a running shoe that is too loose or doesn’t fit properly can also cause the foot to slide in the shoe and cause hot spots or burning in the foot from running. Use the heel lock lacing to prevent your heel from sliding forward in the shoe while running. Using a second pair of synthetic running socks can also help cut down on any unwanted friction on the foot and prevent blisters or other issues.
Morton’s Neuroma causing burning feet while running
Other types of nerve irritation, such as Morton’s neuroma, can also cause a burning or painful sensation in the toes as well. You can decrease the pain from Morton’s neuroma by wearing a shoe like New Balance running shoes which usually have a wider toe box. The wider toe box allows for the toes to spread wider and decrease the irritation on the nerves in the toes that can be affected by the neuroma.
Another way to help prevent or treat the painful and burning nerve pain from a Morton’s neuroma is to use a metatarsal pad or neuroma pad. The metatarsal pads help spread apart the metatarsal heads of your foot and relieve pressure on the nerve.
You can also have irritation of the metatarsal bones and the joints of the toes called metatarsalgia. This metatarsal pain can be a sharper and more uncomfortable pain and could indicate a stress fracture, so if the pain is getting worse, its important to see your sports medicine expert to get a correct diagnosis.
Athlete’s Foot Causing Burning Feet
Infections and inflammation of the skin can also cause either pain or the sensation of burning in your feet. Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) is a fungal infection of the foot that is the most common cause in runners.
You’ll usually notice some redness and irritation in and around the toes and in some cases, cracking of the skin. Athlete’s foot or tinea infections can also cause a lot of itching as well.
To treat Athlete’s foot or other fungal infections, use a topical anti-fungal cream or foot powder on your feet twice a day. It’s important to keep your feet dry and change socks after running to keep the foot infection from returning. Synthetic running socks will help wick away moisture from your feet better than cotton running socks.
If your fungal foot infection doesn’t improve after two weeks of treatment, make an appointment to see your doctor and they can prescribe stronger medications to treat the infection.
What are other causes of burning feet while running?
Painful or burning feet from running may also be a sign of a medical problem affecting the smaller sensory nerves called peripheral neuropathy. One common cause of peripheral neuropathy is a vitamin deficiency of vitamin B12 in the body. Vitamin B12 deficiency can occur in runners with a history of anemia or runners that are on a vegetarian diet. The most common sources of vitamin B12 are from beef and organ meats like liver, so non-meat eaters can have a challenging time getting enough vitamin B12 in their diet.
A daily multivitamin or a B-complex vitamin can be helpful to make sure you get enough vitamin B12 if you can’t get it from your diet and prevent this vitamin deficiency. If you are on a vegetarian or vegan diet, you are more likely to have vitamin B12 deficiencies since most B12 is from animal sources.
When to see a doctor about your burning feet
Other medical problems like diabetes or hypothyroidism may also cause hot, painful or burning feet in runners. Sometimes this chronic burning or peripheral nerve pain in the feet can be a sign of a more serious medical condition.
Low thyroid and burning feet
Another possible medical cause of burning feet (and not due to running) could be low thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism). The decrease in thyroid hormone can cause nerve irritation to both the feet and hands.
If your hot or burning feet while running aren’t getting better, or if you notice the pain or burning is getting worse or you note other problems such as swelling or numbness or increasing pain in your foot, it’s probably time to see your primary care doctor.
Diabetes and peripheral neuropathy
There can be several other causes to explain your burning feet that may not be directly related to running. Untreated or poorly treated diabetes can cause damage to the sensory or peripheral nerves and cause a burning sensation in the feet. In these cases, trying to get the diabetes under control is important to prevent any further nerve damage.
Anemia (a low amount of red blood cells) can also present with burning in the feet as well. Thyroid problems such as hypothyroidism can also cause nerve irritation as well. Finally, if you have a persistent nutritional deficiency despite taking a multivitamin, it’s time to have your doctor take a look at you and see if there is an undiagnosed medical problem causing your burning feet.
Diabetic neuropathy from poorly controlled diabetes can also cause peripheral neuropathy and nerve damage in the feet. If you are a diabetic, its important to keep your blood sugars well controlled to decrease the chances of developing neuropathy. According to the Mayo Clinic, about 50% of diabetes will develop some form of diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
The lack of sensation in diabetic feet from this nerve damage can also lead to diabetic foot ulcers and amputation of toes or of the foot in extreme cases.
So take the opportunity to stop the burning or pain in your feet from running early on instead of ignoring it. A few quick solutions to make sure that you have properly fitting running shoes and ruling out any medical causes should keep you on the road running for years.
Check out our Runner’s Injury Clinic for other injury topics.