Hot Feet as a Symptom of Multiple Sclerosis

Learn About How Others Experience This Odd MS Symptom

Caprice Kelton age 40 (right) carefully adjusts the leg of her mother, Judy Bonham age 63 who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis. Credit: Anne Cusack / Contributor / Getty Images

As a person with multiple sclerosis (MS), I've gotten used to enduring some pretty weird and unpleasant sensations, as we all do who have this disease. But this one's really strange: On certain nights in warmer seasons, my feet feel like they're on fire. This is different from the paresthesias that I usually feel during the day, which are more of a buzzy tingling in my feet and clearly are a symptom of MS.

The nighttime burning sensation that I'm referring to here really feels like walking barefoot on hot pavement. Yet, when I touch my feet with my hands, they may feel just slightly warmer than usual, rather than hot.But that could be my imagination, my brain trying to make sense of this horrible sensation.

Other Ways I Experience My MS-Related Hot Feet

My feet can feel better if I stick them out of the bedclothes for a while or stand barefoot on the cold tile (I learned this from a friend with diabetes as a way to battle peripheral neuropathy). But as soon as I cover them with even a light sheet, they're on fire again. 

Strangely, I have never felt this burning feeling during the day or even at nighttime if I'm lying on the sofa watching television or talking to my husband, even if I have heavy socks on or my feet are covered with a blanket. I can also make the pain fade into the background a little by reading in bed, but as soon as I put my book down to go to sleep, my hot feet are back -- and I remain awake.

What Others Have Told Me About This Problem

So I asked readers: Am I the only one this is happening to? Does anyone else ever have this sensation? Under what circumstances? Have you ever mentioned it to your doctor?

 Here are some of the comments that I received:

  • "I have had burning pain in my feet and legs for years. Sometimes it is worse, other times I barely notice it. I ALWAYS notice it more at night. But that is true of all pain, not just neuralgia. I think it is a pretty typical MS symptom – my neuro certainly thinks so."
  • "I have the problem, but with my hands. Sometimes my hands are so hot, I keep running them under cold water. They get slightly puffy, too. When I touch somebody they can’t believe how hot my hands are." (This is different from my experience in that my feet don't feel especially hot to the touch.)
  • "I have to pull the blanket up and off my feet, they are so hot. I also have the same issue with my hands and sometimes go to bed with a cold pack. It also has a lot to do with my stress or fatigue level – the more tired/stressed I am, the worse they hurt and are hot."
  • "I get the burning sensation in only my right foot. It is such an annoyance. Sometimes it will be brought on by walking and sometimes it is just there. And my feet always feel warm, temperature-wise, and I’m constantly sticking my feet out from under the covers at night. I am the person that always wears sandals or goes barefoot because closed shoes and/or socks are unbearable – feel too darn hot. My feet do not feel warm to the touch, but I constantly feel as if I am wearing a pair of socks or something over my feet, even with nothing on them."
  • "I also have been suffering on and off with hot feet. For no reason, my feet will suddenly feel as if I am standing on a heating pad and nothing I do changes that. They actually get red!"
  • "At times I have the burning (Like a torch being applied) from the knee down on my left leg; then at other times both my legs feel ice-cold. To the touch, they feel normal."
  • "You are not alone. My feet feel *ice* cold when I first go to bed, and sometimes my whole body. Then like clockwork, about an hour after I fall asleep, my feet feel like they are on fire first, and then it is pretty much my whole body. And it doesn’t really tend to go away until right around wake-up time. Then I go back to tingly feet during the day."
  • "Oh, YES, hot feet. I experience it even on the coldest of nights! It comes with no rhyme or reason. I take off my socks, hang my feet out of the covers or lap blanket if I am still up watching TV, sit in front of a fan, use a lavender scent gel that cools them off for a while. It is a positive nuisance, that is for sure. Sometimes I use cold packs -- just wet some towels and put them in the freezer for a while or put ice in them. So I guess with a lot of things MS-related – get used to it! Sad but true. But at least I still have my feet and can use them most of the time. For that I am thankful."
  • "Hot feet is actually what led to my diagnosis of MS. Looking back, I have had other symptoms for years. I “put up” with my hot feet for several months until I finally decided to go to a chiropractor (thinking I had a nerve issue). When the “numb and hot” started to travel, she referred me back to my doc who ordered MRIs. The rest is history…and yes, my feet are still hot!"
  • "Actually, the hot feet thing was my very first MS symptom, along with hot hands, which started occurring 8 years ago. For many years, I couldn’t figure out what it was or why it was occurring, and doctors couldn’t, either. Not only do they feel hot to me, they are hot to the touch when others touch my hands or feet. The palms of my hands and soles of my feet turn bright red. I can’t tolerate socks or shoes during the summer, only sandals. It’s a struggle each autumn to get myself used to wearing them again. Thanks for sharing! I thought I was the only one that had this symptom!"
  • "In the summer, my feet get hot too, although it is not just at night. For several years before my MS diagnosis, I couldn’t stand the way tennis shoes felt – my feet would be hot and tingly, and they would hurt. I thought it was just my shoes. I can’t wear closed-in shoes in the summer–I either wear sandals or go barefoot."
  • "I thought it was just me, so in a way, it's good to read that there are other people as well. My feet feel so hot sometimes that I just about have to hang them out of the window -- yes, in the winter as well. My feet get cold eventually, and then the heat spreads up my legs to my stomach."
  • "I, too, have had “hot feet.” Sometimes it lasts a long time. I also pull my feet out from under the covers. This is quite an odd feeling since I am always cold. I have found that a cool bath or pan of water helps to calm the heat down. But nothing takes it away until the next morning. There have been times when my feet get hot when I’m wearing socks and shoes. I thought maybe my shoes were too tight, but that had nothing to do with it."
  • "Just last week, this happened to me for the first time. I was telling my husband about it. My left foot felt like I was standing on a freezing cold-hot pavement, and I was in bed at the time."
  • "Yes, I do experience this symptom. I asked my neurologist about this just a month ago. I was told that because I have sarcoidosis of the lungs along with multiple sclerosis this could be a combination of both, but he felt it was due to my MS. I tend to have this problem when it’s really warm/hot, when I’m tired or I’ve done too much and, also, if I’m on my feet too long."
  • "I get the same feeling, except I get it in my ears! Not on the inside, but on the outside. Sometimes they hurt and burn so bad I just want to cry. They are so sore to the touch, because of the “fire,” that it makes me want to spray some numbing pain reliever on them."
  • "I’ve never discussed this sensation with anyone before because I thought that it would be silly in comparison to other symptoms associated with MS. However, I do also have painful, hot, swollen feet at night, especially if I’ve overdone it or if I’m tired and stressed. I try to ignore it but getting to sleep can take a while!"
  • "Along with stinging feet, which I’ve experienced for several years, sometimes I feel like my skin is stretched too tightly over my feet!"
  • "This can be so intense for me that the sheer weight of the covers is annoying. I also often experience a very sharp burning pain on the top of my big toe. My husband happens to be a neurologist (crazy, I know) and says that these symptoms are very typical for MS."
  • "My hot feet started after the summer. I resorted to only wearing flip flops even when it began to get cold. The balls of my feet and toes constantly feel swollen. But the hot feet at night are terrible. They wake me up and then take about 15 minutes to settle on which part of the bed they prefer. I get severe pain with the heat and the 'running ants.'"
  • "Yes! This started happening to me about a year ago. I’ve always been one who would have to slip on a pair of socks or use a heating pad to get my feet to feel warm, so this was a strange experience the first time it happened. I couldn’t imagine what was going on. My feet really felt like they were on fire! No other parts of me…just my feet. Now it’s a regular occurrence. I seem to alternate between extremely cold-feeling feet or feet that feel like they’re on fire."
  • "I also get the burning feet at night. It’s just one of my many quirky MS symptoms, and although I get it mainly at night I also get it when I am sitting in a comfy chair, relaxing. I sometimes get it if I am wearing running shoes or other firm footwear; then it is a bit more than just hot feet, it is almost unbearable burning. In bed, I kick off the covers and socks if I am wearing them and if I get burning feet while out walking I have to find a seat while I ride out the attack. The burning usually only lasts a few minutes at a time though it can recur multiple times a day/night."
  • "I have much the same in terms of the hot feet, but it starts mid calf and gets progressively worse down the leg (with my feet being the worse). This usually happens at night but often occurs during the afternoon and evening. My feet do not feel hot to the touch. Occasionally, this also happens with my hands."
  • "Frequently, several times a week, my right ear will turn bright red and is burning hot. Once or twice my right ear has been affected and, only occasionally, it is both ears. They are very hot to the touch."
  • "My feet also turn bright red, swell, and BURN. It helps if I elevate them as high as possible, level with my body, but this isn’t usually possible during the daytime. It is variable – and sometimes my heels are really cold and the soles and toes are hot, so that makes it even trickier!"
  • "I am so happy to know I am not alone about the burning feet problem at night. I am freezing cold during the day and wrapped in a blanket until about 8 p.m. when the burning starts. I don’t just burn on my feet, but all the way up past my knees. I touch my feet and they are almost cold to the touch. I have MS and am wheelchair bound. I rely on my husband to help me in and out of bed. He covers the top half of my body, since I am cold there, with a couple of blankets and leaves a sheet over my feet. I cannot get comfortable but somehow eventually fall asleep. Pretty soon I wake up and my whole body is burning up, so off go all the blankets. About daylight my body starts to get cold and I put blankets back on. Meanwhile, I have only had a couple of hours of sleep and it is time to get up. My doc does not have an answer for all this. I am sleep deprived and just wish for a good night’s sleep."
  • "I have hot feet (for 10 years)…only at night, in bed. I can go to bed, read for a while, and my feet are cool. I switch the light off and then, BOOM! the soles of my feet are burning. The tops of my feet are cool. I throw the sheets off but makes no difference. I sleep in a freezing-cold bedroom with the window open simply because of hot feet. I have tried a fan, a "chillow pillow" on my feet, most everything. Once in a blue moon my feet aren’t hot (don’t know why) and those nights I sleep like a baby, whereas on hot-feet nights, I can’t sleep 'til dawn when, strangely, my feet cool down. I notice others have posted this, too."
  • "Have you ever heard of erythromelalgia? Go to “burningfeet.org,” and your URL will be redirected to the TEA site that contains helpful information (click on “What is EM?”). Yes, some of us know both MS and EM -- neither health issue is pleasant!"
  • "I get hot feet and hot hands. It can happen at any given time, day or night. The palms of my hands turn beet red when this happens. If I’m wearing socks and/or shoes when it happens to my feet, it feels like my feet are 'suffocating.'”
  • "YES!!! I have had the feet-on-fire syndrome!! It got to the point I would put ice packs in pillow cases and sleep on them -- did this for a year. My insurance had changed to an HMO and the new neurologist had little MS experience and told my disability company that I must be diabetic since MS does not cause pain. I had him test me, told him he was full of it, and I now have a really good neuro. She put me on medication for it, and that really helped."
  • "I also had this at one point, but I didn’t just experience it at night. During the day, my feet felt like they were burning, and it was painful to walk on them. I used a cane for a while, and that helped a bit. Eventually, it just went away. At the time, I had a neurologist who scoffed at everything, even telling me that people with MS didn’t usually experience pain! Needless to say, I didn’t bother mentioning it to him. (I have a great, young neuro now!)"

The Bottom Line

It seems logical to me that this is a symptom of MS. Like many of these little "malfunctions," though, it appears that this is not one that is easily treated by pharmaceuticals (although some people report good results with some medications for diabetic neuropathy). The good news is that many people have given me tips and suggestions on things that they do at home that work for them. Check out some of this advice at Tips for Hot Feet and Multiple Sclerosis.

Read More About Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms

Overview of Pain as a Symptom of Multiple Sclerosis 

Weird MS Symptoms and Phenomena: Julie's List

How to Talk to Your Doctor About Pain (or Anything Else)

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