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Running Basics: Why Do Feet Go Numb When Running

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Ever noticed that your feet go numb when running or after a run? But what if you only get this tingling and numb sensation in your feet only when you run? Gait and footcare professionals often receive several queries from their clients about their feet going numb during running or exercise. The tingling sensation or the feeling of your feet falling asleep during a workout is surprisingly quite a common running problem.

Footcare specialists, in particular, hear quite a few complaints about their toes going numb while exercising on an elliptical machine and treadmill. But this problem also tends to happen during any exercise activity. And despite the increase in blood flow to every part of your body during physical activity – numbness, tingling, and burning sensations are fairly common. This numbness in the feet is not usually attributed to a lack blood flow but, instead, is often caused by the increase in compression or pressure on the nerves, that further sends a tingling sensation from the foot all the to the tip of your toes.

If you happen to regularly experience your feet go numb when running or working out, it is highly suggested that you consult a foot care and gait specialist and even conduct a gait analysis.

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What Is a Gait Analysis?

Gait analysis
Gait Analysis (source)

A gait analysis is a systematic study of gait; this would include your posture and the way you walk and move in general. It also involves studying the pattern in which your foot strikes the ground. By getting your gait analyzed, you might get a better understanding of the way in which your foot strike might be causing any feelings of tingling or numbness in your feet. If your feet don’t strike the ground properly with the right kind of pressure and if it doesn’t lift off the floor as it’s supposed to, your feet can go numb from either a lack of proper blood circulation or excessive pressure on the nerves.

Activities that Trigger Foot Numbness

treadmill running
Too Much Treadmill Running Can Cause Foot Numbness (source)

Surprisingly enough, almost any physical activity can cause the feet and toes to fall asleep. But activities like running, cycling, and working out equipment like the elliptical machine, the Stairmaster and the treadmill are more likely to make your feet go numb when running.

Most of the time, this cause of numbness or tingling in the feet during a workout is usually a result of an uneasy or excessive pressure on or compression of the nerves that traverse from your foot all the way into your toes. For example, if too much pressure is applied to the nerves that run underneath the ball of your foot can easily cause your toe to burn or tingle, especially during exercising, running and cycling. Runners tend to often experience this feeling if their gait or shoe fit is off.

Learn about the right running shoes to run comfortably.

In other times, it could also be the presence of a neuroma that could be contributing to the problem. A neuroma refers to a “pinched nerve” or sometimes even a tumor in the nerve. This painful condition is a benign growth of a nerve tissue that is frequently found between the toes. If you do have a neuroma, it is recommended that you consult a foot care specialist and receive appropriate treatment as soon as possible to avoid any further pain or numbness in the feet and toes.

Does Your Running Shoe Fits Well

Running shoe
Correct Shoe Fit is Very Important for Running (source

You’ll be surprised the extent to which the fit of your shoe could have an effect on the numbness in your feet and toes. You need to ensure that the box of your shoe is wide enough and offers you ample space and room for your toes and forefoot. If your forefoot is taught, it increases the pressure on your toes from the impact of your foot strike, making your feet go numb when running. It’s important to take notice of the lacing patterns of your shoes because if they end up being too tight on your forefoot, it might increase the pressure on your nerves and cause that pinching feeling or numbness in the feet. While a snug and comfy fit during exercise is important, tying your shoes too tightly can cause numbness and inhibit blood flow.

Livingit Tip
Also, make sure to look for seams that could be pressing your foot or your toes.

It’s also equally important to obtain the perfect shoe fit, which you can consult with a running store professional or a physical therapist. Most runners tend to require a full size or even larger than regular street shoes, as the greater amount of space helps accommodate the socks and more room to expand your feet while running. In addition, you can try consulting about your pronation or the correct rolling underneath your feet to avoid any sensation of numbness or pinching.

elliptical machin
Elliptical Machine Workout May Also Be Responsible for Foot Numbness (source)

For people who use the elliptical machine for exercise on a regular basis also quite often experience a tingling sensation or numbness in their toes and in the soles of their feet. It’s very likely that the burning sensation could occur as a result of the constant pressure on the balls of your feet. When you run or use the elliptical machine, you pump your legs and the resulting pressure on your balls can reduce blood flow to your toes, making them fall asleep as the flow returns.

Striking Numbness

If your shoes seem unrelated to the numbness and tingling in your feet and toes, consulting a podiatrist or an orthopedist is immediately recommended. Numbness is generally a nerve associated condition and if the symptoms end up being chronic, medical intervention might be needed. This could also be attributed to your foot and gait pattern. Studying the way you land on your feet can also be a huge contributing factor to the pain and numbness you might feel in your feet.

Feet go numb when running
Foot Numbness May Also be a Result of Nerve Condition (source)

Dorsal Foot Neuritis

Dorsal foot neuritis is a condition that involves a sensation of numbness in the toes and top of the foot. This is a problem often observed amongst runners and cyclists. Luckily, athletes can reverse the symptoms as easily as just finding a better fitting pair of shoes.

Your foot tends to go numb as a result of the pressure of the tongue and laces on top of your feet when running. This also tends to impinge on the nerves in your feet, thus furthering the numbness in your feet. And the more your run, the more these nerves can become more inflamed and henceforth in certain scenarios, you can also experience foot numbness after running. In such cases, putting ice on your feet and elevating it, along with an intake of anti-inflammatory medications, as prescribed by your physical therapist or foot care specialist, should relieve your symptoms rather quickly.

How to Treat Numb Feet

How to treat numb feet
A Gentle Massage Should Help (source)

For many, having their feet go numb when running or experience sharp tingling sensations in the toes, heels, and feet while and after exercising is quite often due to extreme pressures and compressions of the nerves in the feet.

Your ultimate goal would then be the reduce the sharp impacts or pressures on the balls and toes of your feet to avoid irritating the nerves. You can use a rigid arch support that conforms more to the pronation of your feet. However, you’d have to make sure that the arch does not extend under your toes.

Your goal is to reduce pressure on the ball of the foot without taking up any room in the toe box of the shoe that could increase pressure on your foot, irritate the nerves and cause your feet to go numb when running. You want to use an arch support that is somewhat rigid, conforms to the arch of your foot closely, and does not extend under the toes.

Stretch It Out!

foam roller

If you continue to experience symptoms of pins and needles and numbness in your feet, you might also be prone to muscle tightness. This would mean that your first course of action should to relieve that stress and tightness. You can try using a foam roller or any other massage tool to roll out the areas where runners often get knots or tight, such as the calves, hamstrings, and quads. In such cases, post-run stretches and yoga can be seen as very effective ways of not only tending to the numbness but also ultimately improving your flexibility. It is also important to make sure that you indulge in some warm-up exercises before you start running or working out.

Summing Up


It isn’t very rare for runners and fitness enthusiasts to feel foot numbness after and during a run, from time to time. In fact, this sensation of “pins and needles” is quite often a result of a kind of compression in the nerves in the feet or a lack of adequate blood flow to the toes and heels. This can happen due to an array of reasons: your gait, your shoe fit, you lacing, the amount you do and don’t stretch before and after a run, etc.

Fortunately, enough, this uncomfortable numbness in the feet can be very easily tackled with a handful of simple homegrown methods like changing your shoes or studying you gait or even just a good old packet of ice to cool down the nerves in your feet. While having your foot go numb after running, or even during a run, is a frequent yet short-term sensation that most runners and athletes experience. So, while there is nothing serious to worry about, it is still very vital for runners to identify and cater to their gaits and pronation, to better improve movement and reduce any further symptoms of numbness and discomfort, in the feet.

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