Itchy Top of Feet Causes and What to Do if Your Top of Feet Itches

itchy top of feet causes

Does your top of feet itch? There are many possible causes of itching. Although any part of the skin can be affected, the skin on the feet tends to be particularly vulnerable, thanks to the moist environment that typically prevails there. Depending on the cause, the itching may be particularly severe at night. This article discusses common causes, along with ways to stop itchy top of feet.

Itchy Top of Feet Causes

Itchy top of feet is usually the result of a skin condition or any underlying medical problem such as diabetes. Below are some of the factors that can cause the top of feet itch:

1. Diabetes

Blood Sugar Level Testing Kit - Diabetes can cause itchy top of feet

Itchy top of feet is, in some cases, a complication of diabetes. This is usually attributed to heightened blood sugar levels over a prolonged period of time.

It can as well occur as a result of a condition associated with diabetes known as peripheral neuropathy. With this condition, the nerves extending from the brain and spinal cord to other parts of the body get damaged. Diabetes can also cause kidney disease leading to itching on one or both feet, ankles, or legs.

The itching may vary from mild to severe and may or may not be accompanied by a red rash on the affected parts of the feet.

Watch out for other symptoms of diabetes such as increased thirst and urination frequency, weakness, weight loss, nausea, and blurred vision.

If diabetes is the underlying cause of itchy top of feet, ankles, or legs, the problem will go away once diabetes is treated and blood sugar levels controlled. Antihistamines and mild topical steroids can also help to relieve the itching.

2. Contact Dermatitis

An itchy rash on top of feet can be a sign of irritation or allergic reaction to something that you have touched.

For example, you may be allergic to chemicals found in some leather shoes, such as formaldehyde and chromates. These chemicals can leach out of the shoes, especially during warm months of the year when people tend to sweat more, and trigger allergic contact dermatitis on the feet.

Chemicals in detergents, lotions, latex (latex shoes, for example) and industrial solvents are some potential irritants. If you recently changed your laundry detergent or lotion, then you know the first suspect. Stop using the new product for a few days and see if the itching on the top of feet goes away.

A dermatologist may have to perform a patch test to determine the exact substance that you are allergic to.

Besides itchy top of feet, you are likely to see other symptoms of allergic contact dermatitis such as hives, rash, dry skin, burning or stinging sensation, and sometimes blisters.

To stop the itching, you need to eliminate the offending allergen and treat the symptoms. For example, chromate-free leather shoes can come in handy for people who are allergic to this allergen. Antihistamines (such as Benadryl) and cortisone creams (such as triamcinolone) will also help to relieve the itch.

You will also want to wear properly-fitting shoes and socks (or sockettes) as wearing very tight shoes and socks can aggravate the itching.

3. Scabies

Scabies can cause an itchy rash on feet and hands in infants and young children, but not in adults, says WebMD. The itching tends to be particularly intense at night.

Scabies is an infestation of a tiny parasite, Sarcoptes scabiei, which is commonly known as the human itch mite. This tiny mite is spread from one person to another through contact. It burrows holes through the skin, where it lays eggs, causing the condition known as scabies.

Prolonged contact, such as in crowded places or through sexual intercourse, is required to transmit the mite, which means that you are safe with quick touch activities such as handshakes and hugs.

If scabies is determined to be the underlying cause for the itchy top of feet, your doctor will prescribe appropriate products to kill the mites on your body and thus treat the condition.

4. Psoriasis

An itchy rash on top of foot may also be indicative of psoriasis. This is an autoimmune disorder with a genetic aspect. It occurs when the body’s immune system malfunctions leading to faster than normal growth of skin cells.

The excess skin cells collect on the surface of the skin, leading to symptoms such as red patches, itching, soreness, and scaling and thickening of the skin (scaly bumps with pus). The joints also tend to get stiff and swollen.

Although psoriasis itching occurs more commonly on the scalp, knees, elbows, and back, it may as well appear on the feet. Factors such as stress, certain medications (blood pressure drugs for example), sunburn, strep infections, and skin injuries can trigger a psoriasis outbreak in people who are genetically susceptible to the condition.

5. Sunburn

A sunburn could as well explain the appearance of an itchy rash on top of feet.

Chances are that you skipped applying sunscreen altogether or applied it to your face, hands, and legs, but did a poor job with your feet. It may as well be a case of lost sunscreen protection after spending a while in the sun. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends reapplying sunscreen every 2 hours while in the sun.

sunburn on top of feet

A sunburn rash typically appears 12-24 hours after UV exposure and may be made worse by blood pressure medications among others.

6. Eczema

Small itchy bumps on top of feet may be a sign of eczema. The term eczema refers to inflammation of the skin. Several conditions can cause eczema on any part of the body but one specific type, dyshidrotic eczema, is known to afflict the hands and/or feet only.

Dyshidrotic eczema is characterized by small itchy bumps on hands and feet, and although the exact cause is yet to be ascertained, several factors are known to trigger it. These include stress, allergies and skin irritation, fungal infections, HIV, excess sweating, and use of Intravenous immunoglobulin infusions (IVIG).

7. Athlete Foot

man walking barefooot

Athlete’s foot, or tinea pedis, may as well be to blame for an itchy top of feet. This is a fungal infection that affects many people. People get athlete’s foot when they come into contact with infected people, animals, and soil, or contaminated surfaces and places such as towels, swimming pools, showers, and locker rooms. Wearing tight, non-breathable footwear can increase your risk for athlete’s foot.

Medical conditions such as hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) and diabetes can also make you more prone to the condition. People living in warm, humid climates are also at a higher risk of developing athlete’s foot.

SkinSight identifies the spaces between the toes (web spaces), top of feet, and bottom of feet (soles) as the three areas of the body most commonly affected by athlete’s foot. Itching tends to be more severe in the space between the toes, but other parts of the foot can as well experience it. The fungal infection can also involve one or both feet.

How to Stop Itchy Feet Top Caused by Athlete’s Foot

  1. Apply antifungal cream or spray.
  2. Take antihistamines or apply a cortisone cream to relieve the itching.
  3. Wear sandals when walking in public showers and locker rooms.
  4. Dry your feet properly after the shower, paying attention to the area between the toes. Applying a sprinkle of talcum powder can help to keep things at their optimum for longer.
  5. Wear breathable leather shoes and socks made from natural materials such as cotton. Put on a clean pair of socks every day.
  6. Do not apply lotions and other moisturizers on the area between your toes.
  7. Soak your feet in a mixture of warm water and apple cider vinegar every evening to kill the fungi responsible for athlete’s foot and soften your skin.
  8. Keep your toenails clipped all the time lest they serve as a breeding ground for fungi and other nasty microorganisms.

If these home remedies don’t seem to be yielding fruits, see your doctor or a podiatrist. A prescription for stronger antifungal treatments may be necessary for such a chronic case.

What if the Top of Feet Itch at Night Only?

Woman sleeping

Itchy top of feet that tend to occur more severely in the evening or at night may be a sign of various problems including:

  • Irritation or allergic reaction to beddings. Pillows and duvets that are stuffed with feathers are common culprits for the nighttime allergic contact dermatitis seen in some people. Biological washing powder is also known to cause irritation when it comes into contact with the skin for extended periods. Switch to a non-biological product and see if that stops the itching.
  • Liver disease. According to Dr. Louise Selby, a general practitioner practicing in Guildford, patients with liver disease tend to report itchy skin which may be particularly awful in the evening. This she says is because the bile salts that aid the liver in removing of metabolic wastes and toxins are “deposited in the skin in the evening”. The itching is typically worse on the soles of the feet and the palms but any part of the skin can be affected.
  • Bug bites. Some bugs such as fleas can wreak havoc throughout the day but others, such as mosquitoes and bedbugs, may only strike at night.

Other Possible Causes of Itchy Rash or Bumps On Top Of Feet

  • Dry skin. This can be easily remedied by applying a good moisturizer, such as Aquaphor or Cetaphil, immediately after a shower.
  • Scars. Some types of scars, such as keloids, may be associated with mild itching.
  • Lichen Simplex Chronicus.
  • Varicose veins. Varicose veins can present themselves as itchy veins on top of feet.
  • For women experiencing an itchy rash on top of feet during pregnancy, especially during their third trimester, a condition that is known as cholestasis may be the underlying cause. This refers to the reduced forward flow of bile. A closely related condition known as pruritus gravidarum may also be to blame for itchy feet in pregnant women.