How to Avoid Hot, Burning Feet When Walking or Running

Young Woman Putting On Exercise Shoes

Gillian Vann / Stocksy

Walkers and runners often experience hot feet or a burning sensation. Naturally, your feet will heat up as you walk or run. Often times, overheating is caused by fixable problems with your socks and shoes and by fatigue after a long workout.

Burning feet may also be a symptom of medical conditions like athlete's foot or nerve damage. Awareness of these will help you identify solutions quickly so that you can reduce any discomfort. Your first steps should be self-care, making changes in your footwear, and addressing problems you can treat at home.

If burning feet persist or you have any sign of an infection, you should see your doctor.

Look at Your Footwear

When you have hot feet during your walking or running workouts, your shoes and how you wear them may be the culprit. First off, look at the material of your shoes. You may be wearing shoes and insoles that don't breathe. Without air circulation around your feet, they can get hot and sweaty. When choosing the best running shoes, consider a mesh material as they allow more airflow to keep your feet cool versus all-leather shoes.

You should also consider getting fitted for shoes that are the right size. Your feet swell when you run or walk. If your shoes are too small, air can't circulate and you will have more friction between your foot and the shoe. Shoes that are too large can also contribute to friction as your feet move around in them too much.

Your insoles could also be the culprit. Some insoles can make your feet feel hot, even if your shoes are breathable. Buy new insoles or swap them with insoles from another pair of shoes to see if they are the culprit.

The following tips could also help prevent hot feet when exercising:

  • Lubricate your feet. Use an anti-blister/chafing product such as BodyGlide. This will help reduce friction and prevent blisters.
  • Lace the right way. You may be lacing your shoes too tightly, constricting blood circulation or even irritating the nerves at the top of your foot. You should be able to slide one finger under the knot. Remember that your feet will swell as you walk or run and you may need to loosen your laces after you have warmed up. You should learn lacing techniques that will ensure they are not too tight over sensitive areas.
  • Choose cushioning. Fatigue from long workouts or long days on your feet can also result in hot feet. You may need more cushioning in the shoes you use for longer distances. Look for athletic shoes that are rated for higher mileage and include cushioning.

Shoe Allergies

You may have a shoe allergy, which is a sensitivity to the fabric, adhesives, dyes, or leather tanning chemicals in your shoes. In addition to burning, a shoe allergy may also result in itching and swelling. Note whether your symptoms only happen when you wear a specific pair of shoes. You can also try different kinds and brands of shoes. The chemicals used in production are different for leather compared to fabric and vary by brand and manufacturer.

Hot Socks

The fabric next to your foot could be contributing to hot feet. Solve this issue by taking these steps:

  • Avoid cotton. Cotton is a natural fiber, but cotton is not good for walking and running socks as it holds sweat and keeps the foot wet. Use socks made of Cool-Max and other artificial fibers that wick sweat away from the feet and cool them down.
  • Choose the right wool. Wool socks can also cause itching and burning sensation for many people. If you love wool, choose athletic socks made from itch-free wool to see if you continue to have this problem. Some people are sensitive even to those blends.
  • Be mindful. You could be sensitive to other fabrics or dyes in socks, so note which socks you are wearing when you get hot or burning feet symptoms. You could also be sensitive to laundry products and you might try switching to a different kind.

Medical Conditions That Cause Burning Feet

In addition to your shoes and socks, there are several medical conditions that be causing your symptoms.

Athlete's Foot

Athlete's foot is a fungal infection and is one of the very common foot issues for runners. You may feel a burning sensation in the affected area, which typically is itchy, red, scaling, or cracking. Good foot care is the key to battling athlete's foot.

  • Alternate your shoes. The fungus likes to grow in damp places, so change your shoes frequently to allow them to dry out between wearings.
  • Stay clean. Wash and dry your feet after walking or running.
  • Try home and OTC solutions. There are various powders and remedies to treat athlete's foot.

Peripheral Neuropathy

If you frequently have burning feet apart from when you have been exercising, it may be due to a type of nerve damage known as peripheral neuropathy. Burning is one symptom of peripheral neuropathy, but it can also be a "pins and needles" sensation, numbness, tickling, or tingling.

  • Go for a checkup. Diabetes is one of the most common causes of peripheral neuropathy. If you are experiencing burning feet and you haven't had a medical checkup in a while, it is time to make an appointment and discuss it with your doctor. Diabetes can come on at any age and it pays to begin addressing it immediately. If it important to keep exercising if you have diabetes, but you must learn how to protect your feet.
  • Other conditions that can produce peripheral neuropathy include AIDS, alcohol abuse, vitamin B-12 deficiency (pernicious anemia), heavy metal poisoning, and circulatory disorders. These are rarer causes, but still worth a checkup.
  • Move and massage. Exercise such as walking is good for peripheral neuropathy as it improves circulation to the feet. Massaging the feet also increases circulation.

Other Causes of Burning Feet

Improper footwear and socks, peripheral neuropathy, and Athlete’s foot are all common causes of burning feet when walking or running, however these symptoms could also be from other conditions including:

  • Nerve entrapment: Degenerative changes in the spine or a back injury can cause damage to the nerves that can cause pain, tingling, and numbness in your feet.
  • Morton’s neuroma: Pain and burning at the base of the toes may be caused by Morton’s neuroma, which is caused by thickened nerve tissue.
  • Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome: Compression of the posterior tibial nerve in your lower leg can cause tingling and burning in your feet.
  • Autoimmune diseases: Diseases such as multiple sclerosis or Lupus can also cause burning feet.

Nutritional deficiencies and a rare disorder called Erythromelalgia can also cause these same symptoms.  If your burning feet persist after home treatment, it is important to see your doctor so they can pinpoint the exact cause for treatment.

Self-Care for Burning Feet

A few changes or additions to your daily routine and habits can help.

  • Soak your feet in cool water. Do not use ice as you could damage your skin.
  • Try changes in your shoes, socks, and insoles to see if they are contributing to the problem.
  • Immediately change out of your shoes and socks after exercise, allowing your shoes to dry in the air, not closed up in a gym bag. This will help reduce the risk of the athlete's foot fungus growing and thriving.
  • Rotate your shoes and socks, both between workout sessions and during the day.
  • Don't wear worn-out shoes. Athletic shoes should be retired after 300 to 500 miles.
  • Protect your feet from blisters during your walking or running workouts by using the right socks, foot powder, lubrication, and covering any spots where rubbing occurs.
  • Elevate your feet after exercising.
  • Soak your feet in Epsom salts to relieve pain, inflammation and to help dry up blisters.
  • Overtraining may make your symptoms worse. Try gradually working up your distance walking or running as you monitor your symptoms.

See your doctor for a check-up and mention the problem with burning feet and any tingling or numbness in your hands or other areas of your body.

If you are having trouble with hot feet during your workouts, you may be able to relieve the problem with changes to your shoes and socks. Your feet will naturally heat up and swell with exertion, and you need the right combination to help them shed excess heat.

If your symptoms continue and aren't associated with exercise, see your doctor. Also, any sign of an infected wound needs to be treated, especially if you have diabetes. The sooner you make an appointment, the sooner you'll find relief and reduce worry about the issue.

2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, "Peripheral Neuropathy Fact Sheet."

  2. Cleveland Clinic. Burning Feet Syndrome (Grierson-Gopalan Syndrome).

Additional Reading

By Wendy Bumgardner
Wendy Bumgardner is a freelance writer covering walking and other health and fitness topics and has competed in more than 1,000 walking events.