The sensation of burning feet is a common disorder. It can occur as an isolated issue or as a symptom of another condition.

Medical professionals call the sensation of burning in the feet or lower leg burning feet syndrome (BFS).

BFS often causes the feet to become uncomfortably hot and painful. Symptoms of BFS can be mild or severe, depending on the cause.

BFS is common in older adults, and can become more intense at night.

BFS not only affects the soles of the feet, but can also affect the tops of the feet, the ankles, and the lower legs.

Diabetes is a common cause of burning feet. However, BFS is also a symptom of a number of other conditions.

This article looks at the causes of BFS and 9 home remedies to treat it.

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Peripheral neuropathy, commonly called nerve damage, is a common cause of BFS. However, nerve damage itself often results from another medical condition.

Medical conditions that can cause nerve damage and BFS include:

Diabetes

Diabetes can cause high blood sugar levels. Prolonged high blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels and nerves. The name for this type of nerve damage is diabetic neuropathy.

Up to 50% of people with diabetes have, or will at some point have, diabetic neuropathy. One of the main symptoms of diabetic neuropathy is BFS.

Small fiber sensory neuropathy (SFSN)

This condition causes pain and discomfort in the feet and hands.

SFSN causes the small sensory cutaneous nerves to become damaged. These nerves provide sensory feedback between the skin and the brain.

SFSN is often linked to diabetes or an impaired glucose metabolism.

Symptoms of SFSN include a cold-like pain, tingling, or pins and needles.

Heavy alcohol use

Chronic alcohol consumption can cause alcoholic neuropathy, which damages the nerves in the body. It is one of the most common symptoms of heavy alcohol use.

The damaged nerves can cause a person to experience BFS.

Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease

Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) causes damage to the peripheral nerves.

Symptoms usually begin in the feet and lower legs. Symptoms include BFS, weakness in the foot and lower leg muscles, foot deformities, and difficulty lifting the foot while walking.

CMT is one of the most common inherited neurological disorders in the United States.

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)

CRPS is a broad term that describes pain and inflammation that follows an injury to a person’s arm or leg. Common causes of CRPS include fractures, surgery, and sprains.

Symptoms of CRPS include BFS, stiff joints, wasting away or excess bone growth, changes in skin texture, and swelling of the affected limb.

Tarsal tunnel syndrome

Tarsal tunnel syndrome is similar to carpal tunnel syndrome of the wrist but occurs in the ankle.

Tarsal tunnel syndrome occurs as a result of compression and damage to the nerve running along the inside of the ankle and foot.

It can cause a tingling or burning sensation in the feet.

Other causes of BFS

Other causes of BFS unrelated to nerve damage include:

Treatment for BFS depends on the underlying cause. A doctor may treat BFS using the following:

  • antifungal prescription
  • shoe inserts or change of shoe
  • vitamin supplements
  • thyroid supplements
  • electrical nerve stimulation
  • magnetic therapy
  • laser or light therapy

There are also a number of home remedies for BFS that a person can try. Here are 9 that may provide relief:

1. Soaking feet in cold water or an ice bath

Soaking the feet in cold water can help temporarily relieve the symptoms of BFS.

However, a person suffering from erythromelalgia should avoid this, as this may damage their skin.

2. Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE)

A person can help reduce the symptoms of tarsal tunnel syndrome by using RICE. This involves resting the foot, applying ice to the ankle, using compression, and elevating the foot.

RICE can help reduce swelling and inflammation, which can help reduce the symptoms of BFS.

3. Epsom salt

People often use Epsom salt to treat a variety of issues, including pain and the symptoms of athlete’s foot.

Epsom salt is a natural compound that contains magnesium sulfate. It has a number of uses including:

  • decreasing the symptoms of athlete’s foot
  • reducing inflammation
  • exfoliating the skin
  • reducing odor
  • relieving constipation

People place Epsom salt into warm water, before soaking their feet in the mixture for 20–30 minutes.

Epsom salt foot baths can treat the symptoms of BFS. However, a person with diabetes should check with their doctor before using an Epsom salt bath. This is because Epsom salt may raise the risk of foot damage in people with diabetes.

4. Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar can combat bacteria, fungi, and other harmful microbes.

Soaking the feet in a foot bath consisting of warm water and apple cider vinegar may be an effective way of treating athlete’s foot. However, there is no scientific evidence to prove how effective this treatment may be.

5. Turmeric supplements

Turmeric contains the compound curcumin. Curcumin has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial effects and it may be an effective treatment for several skin conditions.

Curcumin is also an effective treatment for a variety of neurological disorders.

A person may be able to use turmeric supplements to treat BFS related to damaged nerves and other nerve pain. A person can take turmeric in supplement form, or they can take 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder with 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper up to three times per day.

One 2013 study suggests that if a person takes curcumin in the early stages of neuropathy it may have a positive effect. The study states that curcumin can help prevent chronic neuropathy from developing.

6. Fish oil

Fish oil has anti-inflammatory properties which are helpful in reducing pain and discomfort. If a person has BFS as a result of diabetes they may wish to treat their BFS with fish oil.

One 2018 study suggests that fish oil can slow the progression and even reverse diabetic neuropathy.

Fish oil supplements are available over the counter (OTC). A person can take between 2,400 and 5,400 mg of fish oil per day.

7. Ginger

Ginger oil has anti-inflammatory properties and may be an effective treatment for BTS.

A 2014 study showed that Swedish massage with aromatic ginger oil was more effective in reducing back pain and disability than traditional Thai massage.

Many ginger oils are available OTC.

A 2020 study of mice looked at the use of ginger extract. It suggests that ginger extract may be an effective treatment against diabetic neuropathy.

However, determining the efficacy of ginger for the specific treatment of BFS and neuropathic pain requires more research.

8. Lidocaine or capsaicin

Lidocaine is a local anaesthetic. Medical professionals often use lidocaine to numb the skin before they carry out certain procedures such as taking blood.

Capsaicin is present in chilli peppers and offers natural pain relief. One 2011 study showed that capsaicin is effective in helping manage pain.

Some medical professionals propose topical creams containing capsaicin and lidocaine patches as effective treatments for the symptoms of diabetic neuropathic pain. They are both common treatments for BFS in people with diabetes.

However, there is little evidence to support their use.

Topical lidocaine is also a common treatment for pain associated with SFSN in both patch and gel form.

9. Foot massage

Massage increases blood flow to an area of the body. Therefore, if a person suffers from BFS they can massage their feet to improve circulation and blood flow to the areas that need it. This can help treat some of the symptoms of BFS.

One 2015 study showed that Thai foot massage helped people with diabetic neuropathy improve their balance, the range of movement in their foot, and their foot sensation.

Burning feet syndrome is the name for the common sensation of burning or tingling feet. A wide variety of conditions cause BFS, including diabetes, athlete’s foot, and heavy alcohol use.

There are a number of home remedies a person can try in order to treat the symptoms of BFS. These include cold water baths, epsom salts, turmeric supplements, and fish oil.