Do you get numb feet when running
Do you get numb feet when running? Here are some causes and solutions
Ok runners as you might be aware your feet take an absolute thrashing when you run. When running 2-3km at a decent pace you experience close to 5,000 episodes of your foot landing, taking off and absorbing pressure. We have run through several issues for runners but what happens if you get numb feet. Now this blog was inspired by a runner who recently came into the clinic with numbness brought on after 5km, patient X had no pain in the gym (and trains frequently), they weren’t over training, didn’t suddenly spike their load and had a good training history. So, what caused the numbness? Let’s investigate this!
Now over the last 15years that I have been treating runners, many runners report sore, achy, or numb feet all the time. And sometimes this is purely load but tingling in the feet or toes can be a very disturbing and uncomfortable sensation. Now often when we talk about pins, needles and numbness people can get quite worried but often these can be fixed by some simple changes, if that doesn’t work then we need to look at the cause of the numbness.
Why do we get numbness in the foot from running?
To start of lets just clarify wat foot numbness I am talking about.
Foot numbness while running can present in a few different ways. Some runners feel a loss of sensation over the top of the foot, under the foot or the side of the foot, other runners say their foot falls asleep while running and others complain on numbness in one or more of the toes.
I would liken this sensation as a combination of numbness and tingling almost like the feeling you get when you sit with your legs crossed for a period, as people refer to as “dead leg”. This sensation is referred to diagnostically as paraesthesia.
What causes this uncomfortable sensation? Let’s look at a few reasons why!
1. Tight Shoes Laces
Now the first thing to look at is if your laces are too tight. If they are you can compress the nerves which results in numb toes and feet. Before you go any further try the simple things first.
2. Tight Running Shoes
Yes, this is a real reason why you can get numbness in your feet when running. If your shoes are to tight your shoe compresses (squeezes) the nerves and blood vessels around the front of the foot and the toes.
It is important to have correctly fitted running shoes, for example if you have a wide foot then you may have issues with a narrow width running shoe. I always recommend getting advice from a physiotherapist, podiatrist, or a running specialist to ensure your shoes are fitted correctly. If you are getting foot numbness, then this can be one of the easy options to assess and change.
Running technique could potentially lead to numbness and tingling in your feet. Overstriding can put your heel in contact with the ground rather than the mid/ fore foot.
Over striding which can increase the risk of injuries like shin splints, overstriding increases your foots ground contact time which can compress vasculature (blood vessels) which supply the sole of your foot.
So, if you are a avid runner, try shortening your stride or even have a running assessment like the ones done at the Running Space.
4. Flat Feet
Flat feet, this is when a large portion of the sole of your foot is in contact with the ground. This could lead to excessive compression on blood vessels and nerves and cause numbness.
Now flat feet are one of those contentious diagnosis where a lot of therapists only recommend orthotics, and this isn’t the blog to get into that. Foot strengthening exercises can also be beneficial.
If you believe flat feet cause your numbness you need a professional assessment.
5. Morton’s Neuroma
This can be a painful condition which involves entrapment, compression and thickening of a nerve in the forefoot. Most commonly it develops between the 3rd and 4th toes near the ball of your foot. It can also occur between the 2nd and 3rd toes.
Morton’s neuroma is usually caused by wearing tight shoes such as narrow high heels or flat shoes. It is prevalent in people who wear poor fitting shoes for long periods of time.
Symptoms generally include pain, pressure, numbness, loss of sensation in your toes or the ball of your foot.
6. Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome
Many of you would have heard of carpal tunnel, tarsal tunnel in the ankle can cause numbness and discomfort along the bottom of the foot.
On the inside of your ankle, there is a tarsal tunnel. Through this tunnel runs the tibial nerve, artery, and a vein. If this space is compressed, then you can get numbness in your foot. Check your shoelaces, but it is recommended that you see your GP and a specialist to investigate this further.
7. Sciatic Nerve Issues
Yup, numb feet could be caused by irritation in your back. The sciatic nerve runs down the entire length of your leg and then branches to supply the foot.
Runners may deal with “sciatic” issues when running. If this is the cause, see your physiotherapist.
8. Peripheral Neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy, this won’t just be when running, this will be frequent. PN is caused by damage to the nerves and blood vessels in your fingers or toes. This can lead to numbness, loss of feeling, paraesthesia, and the feeling of “dead foot”
The causes of PN could be diabetes, so in this case you must see your GP.
- Loosen your laces
- Change your shoes
- Shorten your stride if you overstride. Perhaps a running assessment.
- Flat feet – See a Physio
- Morton’s neuroma – See a Physio, Podiatrist, or your GP.
- Tarsal Tunnel – See a Foot and Ankle Specialist
- Sciatica or back pain – See a Physio
- Peripheral Neuropathy – See your GP
Andrew Ilieff - BeFit Training Physio Double Bay
Andrew Ilieff is a physiotherapist based in Double Bay, Sydney. Andrew has successfully treated musculoskeletal problems and sports injuries on the basis of a thorough assessment and diagnosis coupled with evidence-based rehabilitation programs tailored to the needs and goals of each individual. Andrew specialises in lower back rehab, sports injuries and is a leading authority on Strength and Conditioning for Physiotherapists as the co-author of the University Of Technology Sydney Strength and Conditioning for Physiotherapists and casual academic lecturer. To book a consultation, click the link below.