Douse the flames – six ways to quench the painful, maddening sensation of burning feet.
When you see a comedian get a hotfoot in an old movie, you probably have a good chuckle. But when your feet like they're on fire, your sense of humor rapidly diminishes. The causes of flaming feet are many. But so are the remedies. Here are six of the most common tactics for putting out the fire.
BUY SHOES THAT 'BREATHE'
Natural leather is porous and allows the foot to "breathe" – that is, it lets perspiration evaporate so your feet do not swim in your shoes. So-called man-made leather is not very porous, especially if it's advertised as water-proof. "With no ventilation, your feet get damp, and the combination of dampness and friction causes a burning sensation," says podiatrist Gary H. Gordon, director of the running and jogging program at the University of Pennsylvania Sports Medicine Center. This burning is most noticeable on the sole, although it can occur anywhere on the foot.
How can you tell if stuff shoes are the culprit? It's pretty easy: The burning goes away not long after the shoes are removed and the feet dry out.
Not all man-made materials are bad for your feet, though. Many high-quality athletic shoes are made from synthetic like Coolmax and Gore-Tex that are designed to breathe. Likewise, not all natural cowhide shoes are innocent. Some have artificial linings or have been sealed with a water-proofing spray. But, in general, it's best to stick with good, old, reliable leather when selecting non-athletic footwear.
There are a few ways to keep your dogs dry in hot shoes:
- Carry an extra pair of socks. You can put on the fresh pair during your lunch hour, or whenever your feet become uncomfortable.
- Powder your feet and the insides of your shoes. A little talcum powder or deodorant powder or spray will help absorb moisture. Repeat when you change socks.
- Kick your shoes off when you can. Office workers can get away with this at their desks. Or go barefoot around your house.
GET SOCK SENSE
If your shoes breathe, but you still have damp, burning feet, you may be wearing the wrong kind of socks. Natural fibers like cotton and wool used to be the preferred materials; However, recent research has shown that they absorb but do not release moisture to the shoe for evaporation. But newer, synthetic materials are specially made to wick moisture away from the foot. You're more likely to find these synthetic in special athletic socks. Orlon, polypropylene and Coolmax are three to look for.
Burning feet can also be caused by sock texture. Old socks that are worn down to the netting can irritate the soles of your feet – especially if you do a lot of walking in them. If you can see through the heel and ball of the sock, it's time to retire it to the shoe-polishing pile.
DEFUSE THE FUNGUS
Despite the name, athlete's foot can afflict anyone. You may pick up the fungus anywhere that you and a lot of other people walk around barefoot. In fact, many people have low-grade infections that do not seem to bother them.
The burning of athlete's foot is frequently found between the toes and on the soles. Growing conditions there are perfect from the fungal point of view: warm, dark and damp. Infected areas may be marked by itchy, burning irritation and red, scaly, cracked skin or pockets of clear fluid.
If you do not have athlete's foot, it's easy to avoid. Wear shoes and socks that keep your feet dry. Wear sandals or "flip-flops" at pools and public showers. After bathing or showering, always dry your feet carefully, especially between your toes. If you own a hair dryer, give the underside of your toes a blast of warm air (low heat) after you get out of the tub. Powder your feet and shoes with talc.
If you do have an athlete's foot, it may not be easy to get rid of it. Consult a dermatologist who will prescribe an anti-fungal product. Do not make the common mistake of abandoning the medication when the symptoms go away – to kill all of the fungus, you must use it for the full length of time recommended by your doctor.
Do not neglect the "second front" in the battle of the fungus: your shoes. Do not wear the same pair two days in a row – give them at least 24 hours to dry out. That goes double (48 hours) for sweaty athletic shoes, which otherwise get left in stuffy gym bags! And for extra effect, sprinkle anti-fungal powder inside all your shoes.
BE ALERT TO ALLERGIES
Your feet can not sneeze, but they may feel like they're burning when they're allergic to something. When they touch that something, they will look red – sometimes with tiny hives or blisters – and feel hot and itchy. The technical name is "contact dermatitis."
While perspiration, friction and fungus irritate primarily the bottom of the foot, contact dermatitis typically strikes the more sensitive skin on top. One common cause of this allergic reaction is the tanning used in the leather. "It's easy to spot because the redness covers the area of the foot in contact with the upper of the shoe," says Elizabeth H. Roberts, professor emeritus at the New York College of Podiatric Medicine.
Of course, any substance can cause an allergic reaction and make your bare feet look like someone's ruby slippers. You may be allergic to the dye in a new pair of socks. Or a chemical you're exposed to at work. And as many as one in every 500 people may be allergic to two common chemical compounds found in the rubber in athletic shoes and the rubber-based or insoluble glue in other types of shoes, according to Jerry McLaughlin, Ph. D., a professor at Purdue University who published a study on these chemicals.
To "cure" contact dermatitis, determine what's causing the reaction – then avoid it. If you can not isolate the problem on your own after a week of trying, or if the condition worsens during the week, see a doctor. The doctor can order skin tests to determine the source of the skin reaction. To help reduce the symptoms, your doctor may recommend the use of a cortisone cream.
CONTROL DIABETIC SYMPTOM
It's common for people with severe diabetes to lose almost all feeling in their feet, a condition known as diabetic neuropathy. In its earlier stages, this problem can cause sensations ranging from numbness to intenet burning. "In fact, a burning sensation in both feet with no obvious skin irritation could, in some cases, be an early sign of diabetes," says podiatrist William Van Pelt. "However, most diabetics are aware of their condition by the time neuropathy symptoms begin."
Diabetic neuropathy is caused by reduced blood flow and nerve degeneration in the legs and feet. Once the damage has begun there's no reversing it, but burning and loss of sensation can be slowed or stopped by improving control of blood-sugar levels. For insulin-dependent (type-I) diabetics, that can mean adjusting the amount and / or frequently of insulin doses (under a physician's guidance, of course). Non-insulin-dependent (type-II) diabetics may get relief by carefully monitoring their sugar intake.
One promoting treatment in the US is a rub-on, non-prescription ointment called Axsain. Its active ingredient is capsaicin, a hot-pepper extract that works by lowering a substance thought to transmit the painful impulses back to the brain. It's not perfect, but it may provide relief for some long-time neuropathy sufferers.
EASE UP ON PINCHED NERVES
Sometimes pressure on a nerve in the foot can cause burning sensations. "It may be the result of a poorly fitting shoe presenting on just the wrong spot," says Glenn B. Gastwirth, DPM, director of scientific affairs at the American Podiatric Medical Association. "It can also be caused by an injury to the foot that stretches or damages a nerve." Even pressure on or injury to any of the nerves that run from the lower spine down to the ankle can cause burning feet.
If the burning sensation occurs only in one foot or in one isolated area, it may be due to a local nerve problem. The problem may be accompanied by numbness or shooting sensations. If you suspect that a neural short-circuit has sparked your hotfoot, have a doctor check it. You may get better with conservative care, which may include physical therapy or medications. Surgery is used mostly as a last resort in several cases that do not respond to other treatments.
A little-known nerve problem called tarsal tunnel syndrome may turn out to be one of the more common causes of neural foot pain. The tarsal tunnel is a channel formed by several bones in the ankle. Like the better-known carpal tunnel in the wrist, it shields an important group of nerves. Overuse or injury of the ankle can cause the bones to shift, compressing the nerves. This may cause a burning sensation along the sole and into the toes – and sometimes back up the legs as well. "Often, the source of the problem goes unnecognized because many doctors are unfamiliar with this syndrome," says Joseph Ellis, DPM, a podiatrist and consultant at the University of California at San Diego.
For overuse injuries, you'll have to take a rest from your workouts, or at least cut back on the nerve -stressing activities. To reduce tissue swelling that may press on the nerve; You can take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. The doctor may give you a local steroid injection to ease the pain. You may also be given a variety of orthotic shoe inserts to correct foot placement, since some podiatrists believe that the nerve irritation is caused by improper body mechanics.