Hot feet can have many causes, ranging from diabetic neuropathy to a rare condition called erythromelalgia. In some cases, hot feet can become painful, making it difficult to sleep at night.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what can cause hot feet, as well as strategies to keep your feet cool at night.
What can cause hot feet? There are many possible causes of hot or burning feet. Nerve damage, or neuropathy, is the most common cause of hot feet. Peripheral neuropathy can affect your legs and feet, causing burning, tingling, or numbness. Nerve damage has many possible causes, including:
complex regional pain syndrome
exposure to toxins
peripheral artery disease
small fiber sensory neuropathy
tarsal tunnel syndrome
viral and bacterial infections such as HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and Epstein-Barr virus
Other conditions associated with hot feet include:
Hormonal changes. Conditions that affect hormone levels, such as an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), pregnancy, or menopause, can trigger hot feet.
Erythromelalgia. This rare condition is characterized by symptoms such as redness, burning, and pain in the feet and hands, often triggered by an increase in body temperature.
Athlete’s foot. Also known as tinea pedis, athlete’s foot is a fungal infection associated with burning, tingling, and itchiness in the feet.
Kidney disease. Chronic kidney disease affects your body’s ability to filter toxins from your blood. Toxins can build up in your feet, causing excess heat.
Sometimes other factors can contribute to the sensation of hot feet at night. Your feet may feel hot if you wear socks to bed, use a heating pad or hot water bottle, or sleep under thick bedcovers.
What can you do to cool down your feet at night? Try these approaches and treatments to keep your feet cool at night.
1. Identify the cause of hot feet Treating the underlying cause of your hot feet can often help alleviate symptoms. For instance, if you have diabetes, you may need to change your diet or take medication. If excessive alcohol consumption or alcohol addiction is a factor, there are many treatments available, including rehab, therapy, and medication. Make an appointment with your doctor to talk about your symptoms and get a diagnosis for your hot feet.
2. Medication Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen, aspirin, and ibuprofen can help with mild to moderate hot feet. Other medications that may help target conditions and symptoms associated with hot feet include:
prescription pain relievers (although these are used only in severe cases)
3. Vitamins and supplements Depending on the cause of your hot feet, supplements might be able to help treat the underlying condition. Some supplements known to help with nerve damage in the feet include:
Alpha-lipoic acid. This antioxidant may help improve nerve function. However, it isn’t always suitable for people with diabetes, and it can cause side effects.
Amino acids. Certain amino acid supplements, such as L-carnitine, may help alleviate symptoms of nerve damage in people who have diabetes or are undergoing chemotherapy. But these supplements can cause side effects.
Roots and herbs. Turmeric, a root, has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and may help with nerve pain. Evening primrose oil is an herb that may help reduce symptoms associated with nerve damage, such as numbing, tingling, and weakness.
Vitamins. If a nutritional deficiency is causing your hot feet, taking a vitamin B or iron supplement may help.
Always talk with your doctor before taking a new supplement. Supplements may cause side effects or interfere with medications you’re taking.
4. Nerve stimulation therapies Nerve stimulation therapies can address symptoms caused by nerve damage, such as tingling, burning, and pain. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation is a common technique that involves using electrodes to deliver a mild electric current to the affected area. Other nerve stimulation therapies include:
magnetic field therapy
5. Topical creams and ointments A number of topical creams can help alleviate burning feet. Again, it depends on the cause of your symptoms. If you have athlete’s foot, antifungal foot creams and other topical ointments may help clear up your symptoms.
Capsaicin cream is another option. It contains a chemical compound found in hot peppers. According to a 2014 studyTrusted Source, capsaicin cream may help with symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. Although current research is lacking, a 2002 case reportTrusted Source suggests that patches and creams containing lidocaine could be helpful in the case of erythromelalgia.
6. Acupuncture, acupressure, and massage Acupuncture stimulates the nervous system and increases blood flow. It may be a useful alternative treatment for symptoms of neuropathy, including hot or burning feet. Acupressure and massage are other manual techniques that may improve blood flow, helping to relieve foot symptoms such as heat, tingling, and numbness. All three techniques carry little risk of side effects.
7. Improve foot circulation Hot feet are sometimes associated with poor circulation. To improve blood circulation in your feet, try the following:
Wear comfortable shoes throughout the day.
Wear circulation-friendly gel inserts in your shoes.
Take a foot bath with Epsom salts before bed.
Use a bed wedge to elevate your legs to the level of your heart.
Wear gel or compression socks throughout the day or at night.
Massage your feet before bed.
8. Feet-cooling techniques Some conditions, such as erythromelalgia, have no known treatment. When the underlying cause of hot feet is unknown or untreatable, the following feet-cooling techniques can help cool down your feet at night:
Sleep with your feet out of the covers.
Place a small fan at the end of your bed.
Fill a hot water bottle with ice water and place it near your feet.
Keep a pair of socks in the fridge or freezer and put them on before going to bed.
9. Lifestyle changes A number of conditions that cause hot feet may be linked to daily habits. Making small changes to your routine may help gradually improve the symptoms of hot feet. Some lifestyle changes that may help include:
taking regular walks
trying to quit smoking if you currently smoke
eating a balanced diet
avoiding excess alcohol consumption
Talk with a healthcare provider to learn more about lifestyle habits that may be helpful for you.
When to see a doctor Schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider if the hot sensation in your feet doesn’t go away after several weeks. Also be sure to see your doctor if the burning spreads to your lower legs or if you lose sensation in your feet. If you develop hot feet after a wound becomes infected or after exposure to a toxin, go to an emergency room right away. The bottom line Hot feet can be more than a mere inconvenience, especially if they wake you up at night. Peripheral neuropathies (nerve damage) are the most common cause of hot feet. Neuropathies have many possible causes, including diabetes, alcohol misuse, and infections. Treating the underlying cause of nerve damage can help relieve hot or burning feet.
Other ways to keep your feet cool at night include freezing your socks, using a cold pack or cold water bottle, and pointing a fan toward your feet