A number of conditions may be associated with the sensation of “burning feet”. Finding the cause can be a diagnostic challenge.


Transient burning feet:

(1) sun or thermal burn

(2) skin irritant exposure (poison ivy, contact allergen, etc), including shoes


Persistent burning feet:

(1) polyneuropathy (diabetic, small muscle fiber neuropathy)

(2) erythromelalgia secondary to polycythemia (including chronic mountain sickness)

(3) malabsorption with vitamin deficiencies (celiac disease, postoperative, etc)

(4) autosomal dominant familial burning feet (hereditary sensory neuropathy)

(5) spinal neurenteric cyst or arteriovenous malformation

(6) toxin exposure (rodenticide RH-787 = Vaccor B, ergotism)

(7) tarsal tunnel syndrome

(8) metatarsalgia

(9) plantar fasciitis

(10) podoconiosis


The presence of both burning hands and feet tends to favor a polyneuropathy, including chronic mountain sickness.


An older adult may have both a polyneuropathy and a structural problem in the foot causing a compression neuropathy.


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