It’s hard to go about your day when your feet feel like they’re on fire. Burning feet can be an isolated symptom or part of a set of symptoms that can include:

  • itching
  • cramping
  • foot pain

This burning sensation is often due to nerve damage caused by a condition like diabetes or other underlying conditions. It can also arise out of a foot injury or infection.

It may take some time to figure out where the concern originates. If you wonder what type of doctor you need to contact, you may want to start with your primary care doctor. They can assess your symptoms and refer you to the appropriate specialist if needed.

You may be able to temporarily ease foot pain and discomfort. But you probably won’t achieve lasting relief until you treat the cause. You may have nerve damage or an undiagnosed health condition.

Sometimes, the pain you feel in your feet can actually be referred pain. That means that although you feel pain in your feet, the pain lies elsewhere. Getting the right treatment depends on getting the right diagnosis.

Primary care provider

A burning sensation in your feet has many potential causes. That’s why a primary care provider (PCP) should be your first point of contact in most cases. This doctor will review your:

  • medical history
  • medications
  • symptoms

Along with a basic physical exam, this might lead to a diagnosis. When needed, a PCP will refer you to the appropriate specialist for diagnosis or treatment. They will also coordinate all your medical care.

Podiatrist

A podiatrist is a doctor who diagnoses and treats foot problems. They can advise you on how to take care of your feet and ease symptoms. They can also prescribe:

  • medications
  • corrective devices
  • physical therapy

You might start with a podiatrist if you have a foot deformity or have recently injured your foot.

Neurologist

Neurologists diagnose and treat conditions of the peripheral and central nervous systems, including neuropathies. A PCP might refer you to a neurologist if it appears you have a nerve condition.

If you already have a neurologist due to a previously diagnosed nervous system condition, you can start here.

Dermatologist

If you have a visible skin condition such as athlete’s foot, consider seeing a dermatologist. Dermatologists diagnose and treat conditions for

  • skin
  • hair
  • nails

They also diagnose and treat other causes of burning feet:

Vascular specialists

Vascular specialists focus on diagnosing and treating circulatory system conditions. A PCP may refer you to a vascular specialist if it appears that there’s a concern with arteries or blood vessels.

Rheumatologist

A rheumatologist is a doctor who diagnoses and treats arthritis and other conditions involving:

  • joints
  • muscles
  • bones

If you have rheumatoid arthritis, for example, you probably already have a rheumatologist to manage the condition. If that’s the case, you can start here.

Endocrinologist

An endocrinologist specializes in conditions involving hormones, including thyroid conditions and diabetes. If your PCP suspects that you have a hormonal imbalance, they will refer you to an endocrinologist.

If you’ve previously been diagnosed with diabetes and are experiencing burning feet, you may have developed diabetic neuropathy, so an endocrinologist can be your first stop.

You probably don’t need to contact a doctor for a fleeting experience with burning feet. Or if simply changing your shoes or extra foot care measures help. Do schedule an appointment soon if:

  • you’ve tried self-care measures, but they aren’t working
  • the sensation is worsening or spreading
  • you also have intense pain or other disruptive symptoms
  • you’re losing feeling in your feet
  • you think you have a foot or leg injury
  • foot symptoms are interfering with your daily life
  • you have diabetes

MEDICAL EMERGENCY

Consider burning feet a medical emergency if:

  • it’s possible that you’ve been exposed to toxins
  • the burning sensation came on suddenly and severely
  • you have an open wound that might be infected, particularly if you have diabetes

Symptoms of infection include:

  • formation of pus
  • redness or discoloration, tenderness
  • skin that is warm to the touch
  • fever

You can help the process along by talking with your doctor about:

  • all your symptoms, even if they seem unrelated
  • previously diagnosed conditions like diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis
  • recent injuries
  • potential exposure to toxins
  • medications you take
  • remedies you’ve already tried

This will help determine the next steps, which could include:

Your doctor may order blood tests and urine tests to look for signs of:

An untreated burning sensation in your feet can quickly become a quality-of-life issue. It can also be a symptom of an undiagnosed condition, such as diabetes, that can worsen without treatment.

You don’t have to put up with burning, itching, and foot pain. Contact a PCP for an appointment as soon as possible. It may require a referral to a specialist to make the diagnosis. Then you can start treatment for any underlying conditions and for relief of foot pain and discomfort.