Why Do My Toes Go Numb When Walking?

Rubbing Foot
Rubbing Foot. amana productions inc/amana images/Getty Images

Have you noticed that your toes go numb when you walk on the treadmill or enjoy a fitness walk outdoors? You may wonder why this doesn't happen at other times. Here are some reasons that you may have this problem and some solutions you can try.

Numb Toes Can be Caused by Simple or Serious Problems

Toes go numb from reduced blood circulation or from nerve damage. If your toes feel numb only during sustained walking, then first try to rule out the most obvious cause—your shoes. Are your shoes are too tight or too small and that is restricting blood circulation and making the toes go numb? Even if you think your shoes are big enough, your foot may be sliding forward in them with each step to cause this problem.

Are Your Shoes Too Tight?

Your feet swell during sustained walking, as much as a full shoe size. Your walking shoes should be a size larger than your dress shoes, or even larger. Your shoes also need a wide-enough toe box to allow your foot to swell for width as well as length. If either the length of the shoe or the width is too small or too narrow, you may be cutting off blood flow to your toes or impinging on nerves. Follow tips to choose the right walking shoes and understand that you will need bigger shoes for walking.

Lacing Your Shoes to Prevent Foot Numbness

Give your toes enough room in the toe box by lacing them so that the shoelaces at the toe end of the shoe are loose to allow for expansion. Use various lacing techniques so that you can tighten the fit at the ankle without tightening it at the toe. You want a tight lacing at the ankle so your foot stays in the heel of the shoe and doesn't slide forward with each step. That cuts off toe circulation and can traumatize your toes. Use a lace lock lacing trick, or by use two sets of laces per shoe—one for the toe end, one for the ankle end.

Is Your Stride Causing Toe Numbness?

Many walkers curl their toes under when they walk, which not only traumatizes the toes, but also doesn't let your foot flatten out as you roll through a step. Others walk with a tense "toes up" position.

Pay attention to what you are doing with your toes and try to relax them and let them flatten out with each step rather than holding them up or curling them under. Your foot should roll through the walking step, heel striking first, rolling through, and then pushing off with the toes.

Serious Medical Conditions Can Cause Numb Toes—Get a Check-up

Numb toes can be an important symptom even if it clears up with changes to your shoes and lacing. Discuss this with your doctor at your next check-up even if it goes away.

If your toe numbness continues after making changes to your shoe fit and lacing, make an appointment for a check-up and discuss this with your doctor. Numb toes may be the first sign that you have diabetes, and the sooner you are diagnosed and begin controlling your blood sugar, the better your life will be.

  • Diabetic Neuropathy: If you have diabetes, discuss toe numbness with your doctor immediately. This is a serious condition that can develop when you have poor blood sugar control. If ignored, it can lead to problems including necrosis and amputation.
  • Peripheral Neuropathy: Many conditions can lead to peripheral neuropathy and toe numbness, everything from trauma to alcoholism or vitamin deficiencies. This is all the more reason to get a check-up and discuss this symptom with your doctor.

A Word From Verywell

Taking good care of your feet is part of a healthy lifestyle. Treat your feet to shoes that fit properly and are flexible enough to allow a good walking stride. But don't ignore a problem with foot numbness, burning, or other odd sensations that doesn't clear up.

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View Article Sources
  • American Diabetes Association. Peripheral neuropathy. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/neuropathy/peripheral-neuropathy.html.
  • National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Nerve Damage (Diabetic Neuropathies) https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/preventing-diabetes-problems/nerve-damage-diabetic-neuropathies.