The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

A Burning Sensation: Should You See a Doctor for Burns on the Feet?

Posted by on Monday, October 12th, 2015


Over the summer, a four-year-old boy stepped on the glowing remains of someone’s beach barbecue that was buried in the sand at Camber Sands beach in Sussex, England.1 Codie McDowell suffered second degree burns from the incident, so it’s a good thing his mother drove him 20 miles to the nearest hospital for evaluation. He may now need skin grafts to take care of the blisters. The youngster was supposed to start school this year, but he can’t walk or put a shoe on. Of course, not all burns on the feet are as serious. So when should you see a NYC podiatrist about foot burns?

burns on the feet
You’re better safe than sorry when it comes to burns on the feet, as all burns carry the risk of infection. Image Source:

Causes of Burns on the Feet

We’ve seen many different causes for burns on the feet, including:

  • Dropping or stepping on something hot, such as a curling iron or clothes iron
  • A spill from scalding liquid or food at the stove
  • Burns from walking on scorching hot sand or pavement
  • Campfire spark burns
  • House or car fires
  • Chemical burns
  • Sunburns

Burn Levels

There are three different types of burns we treat at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in NYC:

First Degree Burns: The most minor type of burn, a superficial first degree burn yields red skin, minor inflammation and pain, but no blisters. Only the outermost layer of skin has been affected. Peeling is common as the burn heals. Pain resolves as soon as the affected skin cells shed. Typical healing time is within three to six days.

  • Home Care: Soak the wound in cool water for at least five minutes; take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain; apply aloe vera gel and antibiotic ointment covered with loose gauze to protect from infection.
  • When to See a Doctor: Call us if you have burned an area greater than three inches in size.

Second Degree Burns: More serious second degree burns involve extreme redness and soreness, in addition to thickening of the skin and blisters. With these burns, the underlying skin suffers damage, as well as the uppermost layer. Wounds tend to be wet, with blisters that pop open during healing. Frequent bandaging is required to prevent infection. Most second degree burns heal within two to three weeks, but severe cases may require skin grafting and longer healing times.

  • Home Care: Put the feet in cool water for at least 15 minutes; take acetaminophen or ibuprofen; apply antibiotic cream.
  • When to See a Doctor: Always seek treatment for blistering burns on the feet!

Third Degree Burns: With the worst burns, every layer of skin is damaged. The major organs, bones and bloodstream can also become compromised, leading to death. The skin becomes white, waxy and leathery or charred and dark brown. Often the damage is so bad, the nerves are injured, and pain can actually be less.

  • Home Care: Call 911. Elevate the feet above your heart as you wait for help.
  • When to See a Doctor: Always! The risk for infection, blood loss, and shock is great with third degree burns.

Fourth Degree Burns: Though not often referred to, burns that extend into the tendons and bones are classified as fourth degree burns. As with third degree burns, call 911 if you have a burn of this type.

Burn Complications

Keep in mind that ALL burns carry the risk of infection, as any type of broken skin creates a portal for bacteria, fungi, and viruses to get into the body.2 Sepsis is a bloodstream infection that can lead to shock or death. Tetanus is a bacterial infection that affects the nervous system and may cause death as well. Make sure you get an updated tetanus shot every five years to prevent this complication. Severe burns sometimes cause the body temperature to drop (hypothermia) or blood volume to decrease (hypovolemia). Scarring is also common, which can be particularly bothersome with burns on the feet because it may feel like you’re walking on marbles.

A Few Burn Don’ts

Here are a few common foot burn care mistakes to avoid:

  • Never use ice, as this worsens the damage.
  • Never use unproven home remedies like butter or eggs.
  • Never apply cotton balls, as the fibers can stick to the injury and cause infection.

What About Burning Feet Without Physical Burns?

A common complaint patients have is that their feet “feel like they’re burning,” even though there are no visible burns or other outward signs. Most often, burning feet signals nerve damage called neuropathy. Essentially, the nerves misfire and send pain signals to the brain for no reason at all.3 Diabetes and alcohol abuse are the top two reasons for neuropathy, but other conditions linked to the condition include:

  • Chronic kidney disease
  • B vitamin deficiency
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Lyme disease
  • Heavy metal poisoning
  • Hypertension
  • Edema
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome

Besides neuropathy, patients may also feel a burning sensation in the feet if they have athlete’s foot or peripheral artery disease resulting in poor circulation. Some gastric bypass patients who have poor absorption of B vitamins temporarily suffer from neuropathy as well. Our NYC foot care centers offer diagnostic tools and advanced pain relief therapies if you have a burning sensation in the feet.

Treatment for Burns on the Feet in NYC

The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in NYC is fully equipped to deal with emergencies like burns on the feet. Visit our board-certified podiatrists and podiatric surgeons in Westchester or Manhattan for urgent care and skip the hospital E.R. waiting lines!


   [ + ]


If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.