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What Causes Burning and Itchy Feet?

In addition to pain in the big toe, gout can cause burning and itchy feet.
High-heeled shoes may cause burning and itchy feet.
Athlete's foot can be contracted by walking barefoot in locker rooms.
Burning and itchy feet may be caused by an allergic reaction.
Article Details
  • Originally Written By: Madeleine A.
  • Revised By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 08 July 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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Burning and itchy feet can be caused by a number of things related to both medical conditions and lifestyle choices. Some of the most common include fungal infections, allergic reactions, and ill-fitting shoes, though more serious medical problems like diabetes and gout may also be to blame. Burning and itching that doesn’t last very long or that comes and goes isn’t usually anything to worry about, but symptoms that don’t seem to get better or are really interfering with daily life should usually be evaluated by a professional.

Athlete’s Foot

Most of the most common reasons why someone’s feet might burn and itch has to do with the fungal infection tinea pedis, also known as athlete’s foot. This type of infection thrives in moist environments and is very contagious. People typically develop the fungus through persistent foot sweating or re-wearing sweaty socks, but it can also be picked up in community showers, bath houses, or locker rooms.

The bacteria invades the outer layer of the skin and causes a scaly outbreak that most people say is quite painful. The best way to treat this condition is to keep feet dry; the infection will usually go away on its own after a few days, but topical anti-fungal creams can speed the process and lessen the discomfort.

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Skin Reactions and Burns

Allergic reactions to things like detergents, lotions, or fabrics can also have this effect on feet. These cases are often characterized by raised rashes and tend to dissipate once the irritant is removed. Longer-lasting rashes often happen in response to things like poison ivy or poison oak, two plants that release toxins that can cause extreme itching and burning anywhere they touch the skin. A person who has walked barefooted through a lawn or other wooded area and has a rash that weeps or oozes might have come into contact with one of these plants.

Some insect bites or stings can also be a cause, particularly in people who are allergic or have skin sensitivities. Sunburn can have a similar effect. The skin on most people’s feet is somewhat delicate and often doesn’t see the sun very much, which makes it more prone to burning — and makes more serious burns all the more likely. The itching and burning associated with this almost always goes away on its own, but can be helped along with the use of aloe creams and cooling lotions. Bites, stings, and allergies are usually best treated with antihistamines or creams like calamine lotion that are designed to calm irritation.

Footwear and Lifestyle Problems

A simple but often overlooked cause of these symptoms is ill-fitting footwear. When shoes are too tight or too small, they tend to compress the nerves and surrounding tissue in the foot and ankle and can cause both burning and itching over time. Tight shoes also compromise circulation, which can make these symptoms more pronounced. High-heeled shoes that keep feet positioned at a near-vertical angle are often some of the worst. Relief in these cases is often as simple as finding better fitting shoes, else giving feet a rest every few hours or so.

Diabetes

People who suffer from both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes may also experience these symptoms thanks to neuropathy, a nervous system condition that often accompanies the disease. Neuropathy can cause nerve damage because of high levels of circulating blood sugar. When diabetes is well managed, symptoms of neuropathy are usually mild but nevertheless commonly include burning, itching, numbness, and tingling in both the hands and feet.

Gout

Although gout typically causes pain in the big toe, it also can cause burning and itchy feet. Gout, an arthritic condition characterized by high levels of uric acid in the blood, typically causes joint inflammation that can lead to feelings of intense itching and heightened sensitivity. This condition isn’t usually curable and often won’t go away on its own, but prescription medications, herbal and natural remedies, and certain physical therapy exercises can lessen symptoms.

When to Seek Help

Most of the burning and itching people feel in their feet is nothing more than a temporary inconvenience that will go away on its own or else disappear with the help of different creams, lotions, or over the counter remedies. Medical help isn’t always required, though healthcare experts usually recommend that people talk to their healthcare provider about any sensations that last longer than a few days, seem to get worse, or don’t respond to basic treatment.

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Discuss this Article

bagley79
Post 6

I am much more cautious about what I wear on my feet after contracting a bad case of athlete's foot. I was able to treat it with some over the counter medication which helped control the itching and it eventually went away.

Because of that I will no longer go barefoot anywhere except my own home. Even when I am at the pool, I always have sandals on my feet unless I am in the water or lying on my towel.

I always wear socks when I am in a hotel room and never shower in a place like that unless I have sandals on. I know it might sound a little crazy, but when I think of all those germs and remember how much my feet itched, I stay motivated to make sure my feet are protected.

manykitties2
Post 5

No matter what the cause of your burning and itchy feet I would recommend covering your feet in calamine lotion for instant relief.

Earlier this week I went walking through the woods with my friends and ended up coming home with itchy feet that felt hot to the touch and burned. I am not sure what I got into, but I swore never to wear flip flops in the forest again.

Calamine lotion is available at any pharmacy and is very cooling. It soothes your itch quickly. The only downside to calamine lotion is that it is bright white and is very noticeable when worn. If you have ever seen someone using it on chicken pox you'll know what I mean.

wander
Post 4

One of the worst thing that causes burning and itchy feet is a sunburn. I spent a day out walking in my sandals and for some reason it never occurred to me to put sunscreen on the tops of my feet. I really regretted it by the end of the day.

The tops of my feet were bright red and my burn itched like crazy. The only thing I could do was run an ice cube along the tops of my feet and numb them to the point where I couldn't feel the burn or itching.

I have always gotten itchy sunburns and I wonder if that is normal? I guess I just have to be more careful when it comes to hanging out in the sun.

tigers88
Post 3

I actually once burned my foot pretty badly in a campfire and it itched terribly for years after that.

The doctor told me to expect this symptom but I had no idea how bad it would be. I was always sneaking off to be by myself so I could take my shoe of and scratch my foot.

It went away on its own after a few years but it was really annoying there for a while. And mysterious to. I've had other burns but they have never itched that badly.

summing
Post 2

When I was younger I used to go out dancing a lot and for a while I had a big problem with wearing shoes that were too tight.

You know how it goes for girls, the better the shoe looks the more uncomfortable it is to wear. I would go out in these ridiculous heels or shoes with straps wrapped all around my feet and by the end of the night, my feet would feel horrible. They would go from burning to itching to completely numb.

Looking back I feel king of silly. There was an easy solution; just wear more comfortable shoes. But we all make sacrifices for fashion.

Ivan83
Post 1

Most people have probably heard this advice but I will repeat it just because it is so often true. If you are going to be using a public shower or bathhouse, always wear sandals on your feet.

This is one of the most common places for athletes foot to be passed from one person to another. The wet environment and the close contact with the skin is the perfect breeding ground. If you wear flip flops or other sandals you avoid spreading your own athletes foot or catching it from anyone else.

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