Nothing ruins a good run like pain in your feet. In some ways, it’s not surprising, since your feet take a bit of a beating, some pain is inevitable.
But if it’s a burning pain – well, that isn’t a normal sensation while running… And probably warrants some investigation.
There could be several reasons behind it, and figuring out what’s causing it is the key to stopping it. So if you’re struggling with this sensation and want to learn how to keep your feet from burning when running or walking… Let’s get into it.
What Does the Burning Sensation Feel Like?
Everyone experiences this burning sensation differently. However, some descriptions may overlap. Common comparisons include feeling like your feet on fire, standing too close to a heat source, or walking barefoot on a hot sidewalk.
It may be accompanied by tingling or a pins-and-needles feeling. Some people might feel it constantly when they run or walk, while for others, it might come and go. The feeling can range from mild irritation to severe pain.
Where Does the Burning Sensation Occur?
Just like the type of pain, the location of the pain can differ from person to person. The location of the pain depends on the cause, so this could be the first sign of what’s causing it.
Common locations of burning pain are the soles, the arch, the ball of the foot, the toes, and the top of the foot.
What Causes a Burning Sensation in Your Feet While Running?
A burning sensation in the feet while running or walking can come down to a number of different things. Here are some of the most common reasons behind your pain.
Intense or Prolonged Friction
Friction is inevitable when running, but intense chafing or prolonged friction—even mild—can trigger a warm, burning sensation. It’s usually relieved when you stop running, and the friction stops.
Running Shoes That Don’t Fit Properly
Ill-fitting running shoes can create the above-mentioned friction. Not only that but if they’re too tight, they can cut off circulation to the foot, which is another reason you might be experiencing burning in your feet.
Existing Foot Conditions
Certain foot conditions may also present with burning pain in the feet, especially when you exercise. These include:
Typically found between the third and fourth toes in the ball of the foot, Morton’s neuroma develops when the nerve between the two metatarsals thickens. This causes it to push against the surrounding tissues and cause pain and discomfort.
When you exercise, friction, impact, and swelling in the area can exacerbate the pain, creating a burning feeling. This is especially true for high-impact exercises like running.
Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome
This condition occurs when the tibial nerve in the foot becomes damaged due to trauma or compression. When you exercise, there’s a high chance of it becoming inflamed and aching, along with a burning and tingling sensation.
The plantar fascia is the thick strip of tissue that runs from your heel to the ball of your foot, making up the arch of your foot. With overuse, this band of tissue can become inflamed, which is made worse by walking or running.
The main symptom of plantar fasciitis is heel pain first thing in the morning or after a prolonged rest period. But when the plantar fascia is stretched, there may also be a burning sensation, often during activity.
Some medical conditions can also cause this burning feeling in the foot, even if they don’t directly affect the feet. They include:
The peripheral nerves are the nerves that branch off of the spinal cord to the rest of the body. When these nerves get damaged, they can malfunction and send “false signals” to the brain, sometimes interpreted as a burning sensation.
Numerous things, including trauma, vitamin deficiencies, and certain medications can cause this condition. Currently, there’s no cure for peripheral neuropathy.
Certain autoimmune conditions—like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus—can cause joint and tissue inflammation. Lupus may also cause permanent damage to the nerves and tissues, which could lead to neuropathy.
Diabetic neuropathy is a common reason for burning in the feet. When your blood sugar levels are perpetually high, damage is done to the blood vessels and nerves.
This means the messages don’t get from the brain to the feet and vice versa, which could result in inaccurate feelings. In other words, your feet could be fine physiologically, but your brain interprets pain that’s not there.
Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)
Peripheral artery disease is a vascular condition that restricts blood flow to the feet due to thickening arteries. When blood isn’t getting to the tissues, they become starved for oxygen and nutrients, leading to a range of uncomfortable feelings, including burning. This is especially noticeable during exercise.
While PAD is one reason for poor circulation, it can have a variety of causes. Cold, too-tight shoes and swollen feet can all restrict circulation, leading to several strange sensations in the feet.
Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection that causes a burning, itching rash on your feet, usually between your toes. You’ll definitely know if you’ve got it, though—there’s a red, angry rash, and the skin may go white and flake off eventually.
Injury can also cause a burning sensation, usually if the injury has led to nerve compression or entrapment. Swelling in the foot tissues may compress nerves, but burning can also be caused by stress fractures or even tendonitis.
How to Prevent Burning Sensation in the Feet While Running
Once you’ve identified the cause of your pain, you can figure out how to prevent it. Here are some easy changes to help reduce your foot pain.
Wear Proper Footwear
Get your feet properly measured and find what kind of arch type and gait you have. These will become invaluable when shopping for shoes; you can buy shoes that cater to your feet.
By buying the right size shoes, you’ll reduce chafing and potential circulation problems. You also won’t have to tie your laces too tight. This step might sound simple, but it’s often the thing that fixes the problem.
Rotate Your Shoes
Switching between two or more pairs of shoes when exercising means they wear down much more slowly. Continuing to run in the same pair can cause the padding to flatten, so it no longer supports your foot.
Don’t Wear Worn-Out Shoes
Once you notice your shoes are worn out, remove them. Most shoes last 300 to 600 miles before needing replacement but use your discretion. If the upper has worn through, the tread is smooth, or the foam in the midsole has flattened, it’s time for them to go.
Continuing to wear them can strain parts of your foot that weren’t under pressure before. Change them up, and your feet should stay healthy and pain-free!
Moisture-wicking socks can help to get rid of chafing. As they pull moisture away from the skin, they reduce friction and lower your chances of developing blisters and burning sensations. They can also reduce the chance of developing Athlete’s Foot.
Protect Your Feet From Friction
If there’s some friction in your shoes, opt for something like BodyGlide. Rub it on your feet, and you should notice an immediate positive difference in the amount of chafing.
Try Different Shoe Lacing Techniques
You should be able to slide a finger under the knot in your laces with a bit of work—if you can’t, the shoes are too tight. This can lead to circulation problems.
If there’s enough space but you’re still struggling with burning feet, you may need to switch up your lacing technique. Thankfully, there are lacing techniques you can try to get a good lockdown on your foot without restricting circulation.
Consider Using Orthotic Inserts
Conditions like flat feet or high arches may need some extra support to get rid of that burning feeling. Before you buy a whole new pair of shoes, try an orthotic insert instead. They’re cheap, easy to find, and can be moved from shoe to shoe.
Focus On Strengthening Your Feet
Doing lower leg and foot muscle exercises can help reduce pain. The stronger your feet are, the less likely they’ll be to feel pain and discomfort during exercise.
Vary Your Running Surfaces
Change up your running surface every now and then. Running on the same surface over and over again can place repeated strain on the feet, but trying something else can help.
For example, try running on grass every now and then to reduce impact. Running on the trails can also help you to build lower leg muscle and develop stronger feet.
How to Treat Your Feet After a Run
Just got home from a run with your feet burning? Here are some ways to treat it.
Soak Your Feet in Epsom Salts
Epsom salt is a highly absorbable form of magnesium. Make yourself a lukewarm bath and dissolve some Epsom salt in it. Soak in the bath and allow the Epsom salt to be drawn in. This is highly effective at relieving muscle cramps, lowering inflammation, and can also help to dry any fresh blisters.
Elevate Your Feet After Exercising
Raising your feet above the level of your heart can help excess fluid to drain. Blood and lymphatic fluid may accumulate in the feet, leading to swelling and burning. Elevating your feet will allow that blood to circulate back to the heart and drain the other fluid away, relieving your pain.
Massage and Stretch Your Feet
If you suffer from burning feet often while exercising, consider incorporating foot stretches and massages into your warm-up and cool-down activities. This will help to prime the muscles for activity, and loosen them up when you’re done.
Dry Your Shoes Properly
Returning to damp shoes for your next exercise sessions may increase your chance of developing blisters. Moisture leads to friction, so keeping your shoes as dry as possible between runs is in your best interest.
Place them in a well-ventilated place that’s not in direct sunlight. You can leave them in front of a fan if you’d like, as the wind will dry them off quickly but won’t damage the fabric the same way heat will.