Burning Pain in the Foot

Welcome to my article on burning pain. I want to introduce you to the condition of tarsal tunnel pain a common cause of burning pain we also cause causalgia. 

Pain is something that happens to other people. In truth everyone experiences pain differently. In fact, pain may be difficult to qualify let alone quantify as the sensation may be unpleasant but does not actually hurt. These seem conflicting emotions and yet when it comes to pain, there is nothing straight forward. When it comes to feet then the key factors associated with pain come down to stopping us working, walking and forcing us to sit rather than stand. All this is bad news if we cannot carry out our normal daily routine. I wrote a couple of blogs on an old website several years ago and then decided to update these to capture some of the changes. I have tried to give some sense of when you should seek help and when you might like to manage matters yourself. Healthcare is changing in many parts of the globe. Some for the better, others perhaps not so. It is important to stay educated but also learn HOW TO use your own healthcare service.

It is for patients to consider if they should rely completely on a state-funded system or consider the independent sector. I have used both as a patient but it comes down to the urgency and bank balance that dictates the end decision. Studying the small print with companies offering medical health cover is very important as it depends on the package selected. This is only an introductory summary and I have written a couple of books on foot pain to cover the subject of what to ask in more detail.

What to look out for?

Pain is a ‘noxious’ sensation meaning an unpleasant response to something that comes into contact with the body. It may be an injury, infection, allergy or overuse of a part of the foot. Men are supposed to handle pain by ‘manning up but it is often the women who cope better. The truth behind this suggestion is probably spurious as everyone seems to have the ability to tolerate pain differently. Slow increasing pain is better tolerated and hovers in some ways at a level where the person manages some of these uncomfortable changes. This fits the chronic pain scenario.

Burning Pain

Burning pain should not happen in feet. If it arises it will start to nag. ‘Causalgia’ is a medical term used and may be associated with neuralgic, or nerve pain that has a burning sensation. We are talking feet here, but it can affect any appendage or digit. When it happens do check if you have just overdone it on the feet, or have walked too far. I have a pair of boots that if used too much can leave the soles hot and sore for a bit. I use these with care now for short periods working in the garden. If standing too long feet can also feel on fire. These symptoms are relatively frequent. If you are a big alcohol drinker or have a blood condition called pernicious anaemia, you can induce the same sensations. In this respect medical advice is important. Pain that has an electric-like quality or leaves tingling can be associated with a range of concerns. When associated with colour changes and high sensitivity you must take this seriously. Where pain breaks our sleep pattern and when tablets fail to relieve pain, then further enquiry is necessary. Recent or old back problems, sciatic pain, injury as in nasty ankle sprains can provoke such pain.

Tarsal Tunnel Pain

A condition in the foot called Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome (TTS) is both complex and can resist treatment. Early management is always preferred. Burning pain is a big subject and there are many causes. If you have a foot which burns, feels tight and toes tingle, with or without heel pain. If the front of the foot feels as though it will explode with pressure, then be sure to have a consultation with someone who knows about feet. You will know because the more you exercise the worse it becomes. At the end of the day, it probably is not TTS, it could be something else equally amenable to treatment.


Pain means different things to different people. Gender, genetics, age all contribute to different patterns of how we cope. The impact that pain imposed on humans is associated with the effect of pain on daily life. Pain affects sleep and emotions. Signs are different from symptoms. Accurate description affords clearer communication. To help, a scale allows rating pain from none to worst 0-10 being most popular. A diary provides better consultation with healthcare professionals. Diaries may take different forms; charts, electronic diaries (spreadsheets), calendar style, or formal descriptive styles. Timelines are important for charting the origin of the problem. It becomes obvious that the longer pain is sustained the more damage and difficulty arises to reverse the condition. Referred pain may come from nerves elsewhere or altering posture from the original site in the foot. Burning pain should not be allowed to be chronic and may be called causalgia

A table of different causes can be viewed with the pain chart and location. Click to download the Rough Guide to Foot Pain

Use of medication for pain broadly forms medications with paracetamol (non-anti-inflammatory), aspirin or ibuprofen (anti-inflammatory) and codeine. Drugs have to be used responsibly but for only 1-3 days before one should seek help. Where medication fails, professional help is required. Pain and different tissues such as skin, muscle, and bone can affect the speed of recovery. Pain can be helped without medication but will depend on the severity of the condition which is based on the amount of damage and length of time the condition has been sustained. This comes under the term ‘timeline’ as described above. You can also download Pain and the foot Part 1


Thanks for reading ‘Burning Pain in the Foot’ by David R Tollafield

Published by Busypencilcase Reflective Communications Est. 2015

First published April 2019. Updated March 2021