How to Avoid Hot Feet When Walking or Running

Learn About Causes, Prevention, and Treatment

Cooling Feet on Ice
PM Images/Digital Vision/Getty Images

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 problems with your socks and shoes and by fatigue after a long workout. These are easily fixable issues. 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 quicker, 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.

Hot Shoes and Insoles

When you have hot feet during your walking or running workouts, your shoes and how you wear them may be the culprit. Try these solutions:

  • Choose mesh shoes instead of full leather shoes. You may be wearing shoes and insoles that don't breathe. Without air circulation around your feet, they can get hot and sweaty.
  • Get fitted for shoes that are the right size. Your feet swell when your run or walk. If your shoes are too small, air can't circulate and you will have more friction between your feet and the shoe. Shoes that are too large can also contribute to friction as your feet move around in them too much.
  • Lubricate your feet. Use an anti-blister/chafing product such a 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. 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.
  • Upgrade your insoles. 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.

Shoe Allergies

You may have a shoe allergy, which is a sensitivity to the fabric, adhesives, dyes, or leather tanning chemicals in your shoes. You can:

  • Be mindful. Note whether your symptoms only happen when you wear a specific pair or shoes.
  • 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:

  • 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 an 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.

Athlete's Foot

Athlete's foot is a common fungal infection. 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 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 awhile, 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 you have diabetes, 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, 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.

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.
  • After exercise, immediately change out of your shoes and socks, 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.
  • 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.

A Word From Verywell

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.

Sources:

Athlete's Foot. American Podiatric Medical Association. http://www.apma.org/learn/FootHealth.cfm?ItemNumber=978.

Burning Feet. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/burning-feet/basics/causes/sym-20050809.

Matthys E, Zahir A, Ehrlich A. Shoe Allergic Contact Dermatitis. Dermatitis. 2014 Jul-Aug;25(4):163-71. doi: 10.1097/DER.0000000000000049.

Peripheral Neuropathy. American Podiatric Medical Association. http://www.apma.org/learn/FootHealth.cfm?ItemNumber=1864.

Continue Reading