Burning toes - what's behind it?


When their toes are burning, most patients experience a painful tingling sensation in their toes, similar to the feeling of a foot asleep.
In addition, the burning sensation can manifest itself in the form of stabbing and pulling pains from the metatarsus to the tip of the toes. The big toe is often affected.


A common cause of burning toes are circulatory disorders in the feet, which means that the tissue of the toes cannot be adequately supplied with oxygen.
Incorrect footwear that is too small or too tight can also lead to burning toes, as in the long run the toes cannot withstand the excessive pressure of the unnatural stress.
Patients with diabetes may also have burning toes as a symptom.
A less common cause is alcohol consumption. This is because alcohol has a negative impact on the peripheral nervous system.


One possible cause of toe pain is gout disease.
This is a metabolic disease in which the uric acid level in the blood is greatly increased. As a result, uric acid crystals are mainly deposited in joints, tendons, bursae and cartilage. This results in painful inflammation of the joints, which can be recognized by swelling and reddening of the skin. The toe and finger joints are most affected, especially the metatarsophalangeal joint of the big toe. This pain can also be felt as a burning sensation.

Do you have gout? You can find out how gout also manifests itself in our article: Gout - these are the symptoms!

Vitamin deficiency

Another cause of a burning sensation in your toes is a lack of vitamins. Especially vitamin B5, the so-called Pantothenic acid, plays a major role in this.
Due to the food supply in our latitudes, a Vit-B5 deficiency hardly arises due to a low intake, but is associated with abnormal eating habits as a concomitant disease, for example alcohol addiction or diabetes.
A Vit-B5 deficiency can also lead to abnormal sensations or numbness.

Read more about this: Vitamin deficiency


The term polyneuropathy is a collective term for diseases in which the peripheral nervous system is damaged. Most of the time, the symptoms are the result of another underlying disease. One cause can be diabetes, for example. Polyneuropathy also develops after massive alcohol abuse.

Both nerves for motor skills and nerves for feeling can be affected. Depending on what exactly is affected, the symptoms vary.
If motor nerves are affected, the patient will have difficulty moving limbs. If sensitive nerves are damaged, numbness or abnormal sensations occur. A burning sensation in the toes may very well be caused by polyneuropathy.

How to tell if you have polyneuropathy can be found in our article: Symptoms of polyneuropathy

Concomitant symptoms

One symptom that is often associated with burning of the toes is numbness that is felt on the same toe or on adjacent toes. Parasitic sensations such as a slight tingling sensation, similar to the feeling when a foot that has fallen asleep "wakes up" again, are relatively common. In technical terminology, such phenomena are referred to as "Paresthesia“.

Another accompanying symptom are cold feet.
These accompanying symptoms for burning toes seem a little paradoxical at first glance, but can be easily explained. Tissue with good circulation is warm. During exercise, for example, the body is better supplied with blood and one becomes warm. Conversely, tissue with poor or little blood supply is cold. As mentioned earlier, poor circulation can be the cause of a burning sensation in your toes. Here you can see that the same cause can express itself in a completely different way. The reason for this is that many factors play a role in the development of the disease. No matter how far apart the symptoms appear, the cause may be relatively similar.

Read our articles about this:

  • Circulatory disorders in the legs
  • Leg asleep - how come?

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If the foot pain occurs not only after wearing tight shoes or similar loads for a long time, but repeatedly and for no plausible reason, then the suspicion of an illness is fairly close. To find out whether you are actually sick, the following diagnostic methods should be considered.
A blood count can show whether there is a vitamin deficiency and therefore the reason for the pain. There is also the option of using neurography, i.e. measuring the nerve conduction velocity, to find a possible cause. The same can be achieved through electromyography.


Of course, the treatment depends on the underlying cause of the burning sensation in the toes.
If a blood test shows that there is a lack of vitamins, treatment consists of giving the missing vitamin.
If there is a circulatory disorder, the patient should reduce his alcohol and nicotine consumption, as both substances have very bad effects on the blood circulation.

Regular massaging and keeping your feet or toes warm promote blood circulation and alleviate symptoms.

With gout, the patient's diet should be controlled more closely. High-fat meals and foods high in purine, such as meat or beer, should be avoided whenever possible. The aim is to keep the uric acid level in the blood as low as possible. Drug treatment for gout is also possible. The administration of the active substance allopurinol prevents more uric acid from being produced and thus alleviates the symptoms of gout.

If the patient has diabetes and it is suspected that this is causing the burning sensation in the toes, the doctor responsible should check whether the patient's lifestyle, diet and insulin administration are appropriate. In addition, the patient should pay attention to comfortable and not too tight footwear, which prevents further aggravation of the pain.

You may also be interested in these topics:

  • Therapy of circulatory disorders
  • Circulatory disorders caused by smoking
  • Diet for gout

Duration of complaints

The pain occurs with exertion and then lasts for a few minutes.
If the pain occurs regularly, this is a clear sign to consult a doctor, preferably an orthopedic surgeon or a neurologist. The occurrence of the pain can only be eliminated if the cause has been clarified and then treated. That is why you should not delay your visit to the doctor too much or minimize your pain in order to be able to stop the pain as quickly as possible.

Burning in the big toe

A burning sensation in the big toe is the most common of all other toes.
One possible reason is that the big toe is the most stressed. For example, when walking, you mainly roll on it. When tight shoes are worn, they are most compressed and thus stressed. The causes of the burning sensation do not differ from the rest of the toes. Consequently, the symptoms are expressed in the same way and hardly differ in their character. A small difference, however, is that the symptoms can express themselves more intensely or more obtrusively due to the significant size difference of the toes.

Burning and pain often go hand in hand. Therefore, read our article about Pain in the big toe - these are the causes!