My Toes Are Burning! What Does It Mean?

By Athlete's Care on June 07, 2022

Feet and toes are vulnerable, hardworking parts of the body, and our Toronto physiotherapy and chiropractic clinics see many clients with problems affecting their complicated structure. Injuries and chronic conditions are common.

But, what if the problem appears spontaneously? Or, it appears to, at least.

A burning sensation in the toes or feet that seems to come out of nowhere can have various causes.

The first step... a good diagnosis.

  • Essentially, a burning sensation is caused by nerve damage;
  • Nerve pain is also called peripheral neuropathy.

The first step is a good diagnosis to rule out the common causes of nerve damage that results in burning toes and feet one by one.

  • Diabetes – probably the most common cause;
  • Athlete’s foot;
  • Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid);
  • Among others.

Some causes are related directly to the musculoskeletal system, such as a pinched nerve.

  • Small fiber sensory neuropathy (SFSN): Caused by damage and loss of the myelin sheath, which protects nerve fibres; may be related to diabetes;
  • Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT): An inherited nerve disease that targets the nerves that control the muscles; affects about 1 in ever 2,500 Americans;
  • Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS): Often occurs after surgery or an injury, and may also involve swelling;
  • Erythromelalgia: A rare disease that causes discomfort in the feet with no known cause;
  • Tarsal tunnel syndrome: A condition caused when the nerve that connects the ankle and foot becomes compressed because of an injury.


Osteoarthritis, or OA, is a very common form of joint disorder, and in fact the most common form of arthritis. It’s also a common cause of a burning sensation in the big toe.

  • OA occurs when the cartilage that cushions the joint wears down, typically from overuse;
  • The exposed bones rub against each other;
  • OA can cause the joint to swell, and limit range of motion.

OA typically begins relatively slowly, but worsens overtime. It is often found in the big toe, or the first metatarsophalangeal joint.

  • It can cause a variety of sensations, including tenderness, pain;
  • A burning sensation is usually experienced later, after the first stages of the disorder.
What can you do?

There are many measures that can help you with OA and its symptoms.

  • Over the counter pain medications, and anti-inflammatory medications for swelling;
  • Ice packs can provide temporary pain relief;
  • Avoiding footwear that causes imbalances, including high heels and pointed toes;
  • Regular exercise can help alleviate many symptoms of OA. Your Toronto physiotherapist or other sports medicine specialist can provide advice on what kind of exercises can help in your situation.
  • Custom-made insoles and orthotics, or a brace in some cases, may be useful;
  • Prescription medications and/or injected treatments may prove helpful.

In some severe cases, surgery to repair or even replace the joint may be called for. Lifestyle is often a deciding factor.

Burning toes or any abnormal pain or sensation in your feet should be investigated by a medical professional as soon as possible. Once the root cause has been determined, our Toronto physiotherapy and chiropractic clinics can provide a variety of treatments that can help. Don’t hesitate to contact one of our Toronto physiotherapy clinics for a consultation today.