What It Means When Your Foot Goes Numb When Running

Man running in New York
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Numbness or a tingling sensation (unrelated to the cold weather) in the toes is a common complaint among runners. Often, the cause is wearing running shoes that are too tight or tying your shoelaces too tight.

Your feet swell when you run, so you should be wearing running shoes that are a half size to a full size bigger than your street shoe size. If you have a wide foot, you may need to get a running shoe that has an extra-wide toebox.

You can ask a salesperson at a running specialty store for advice on the right shoes. Make sure that the salesperson also checks your running gait to make sure you're wearing the correct shoes for your running style. Sometimes toe numbness can be a result of a biomechanical issue that can be corrected with the right shoes and/or inserts.

If you think that you're wearing the correct running shoes for your foot size and gait, you can also try stopping to stretch when you start feeling the numbness. Sometimes tightness in our legs may lead us to run with improper form, which may put pressure on a nerve and lead to the numbness. So a quick stretch of any part that feels tight may help. When you stop to stretch, also try to move your foot around and massage it a little, just to get the blood flowing to the areas that feel numb. Running on your toes for 30 seconds or so can also help.

Stretching or Massage Can Help

If you continue to have a problem with foot numbness and you're prone to muscle tightness, you'll need to work on relieving the tightness.

Go for a professional sports massage or try using a foam roller or other massage tool to roll areas where runners frequently get tight, such as your quads, calves, hamstrings, and IT band. Try doing some post-run stretches and yoga to relieve your tightness and improve your flexibility. Also, make sure that you do some warm-up exercises before you start running so your muscles are warmed up before you start running hard or long.

If you don't see any improvement with the above advice, it's important that you see your primary doctor or a podiatrist. You may have a nerve issue called a neuroma. Though it may sound scary, a doctor-recommended under-the-foot pad can help treat the condition by taking pressure off the nerve.

The numbness may also be the result of something more, like an illness, tumor or nerve condition. If your symptoms persist, don't wait to get checked out with your healthcare professional.