Metabolomics is an exciting field in systems biology that provides a direct readout of the biochemical activities taking place within an individual at a particular point in time. Metabolite levels are influenced by many factors, including disease status, environment, medications, diet and, importantly, genetics. Thanks to their dynamic nature, metabolites are useful for diagnosis and prognosis, as well as for predicting and monitoring the efficacy of treatments. At the same time, the strong links between an individual's metabolic and genetic profiles enable the investigation of pathways that underlie changes in metabolite levels. Thus, for the field of metabolomics to yield its full potential, researchers need to take into account the genetic factors underlying the production of metabolites, and the potential role of these metabolites in disease processes. In this Review, the methodological aspects related to metabolomic profiling and any potential links between metabolomics and the genetics of some of the most common rheumatic diseases are described. Links between metabolomics, genetics and emerging fields such as the gut microbiome and proteomics are also discussed.