A relatively common problem that occurs during exercise is a sensation of the feet falling asleep. If your feet or toes fall asleep, become numb, burn or start tingling while you work out, contact us today for an appointment in our Seattle clinic so we can help you get back to exercising in comfort. We are experts in helping patients eliminate this frustrating problem. Be sure to bring your exercise shoes with you when you come to see us.

What Activities Cause Feet to Go Numb?

Almost any exercise activity can lead to the feet and toes falling asleep, but he most common activities causing feet and toes to go numb are bicycling, elliptical machine and stairmaster. We will also sometimes see the feet go numb or start to burn while using a treadmill.

What Causes Foot Numbness and Burning Feet during Workouts?

Most of the time the cause is pressure or compression of the nerves that go from the foot into the toes. In particular, too much pressure on the nerves that run under the ball of the foot will lead to toe tingling and numb feet while biking and exercising. Sometimes a neuroma is present and contributes to the problem.

If you do have a neuroma, treatment might be a little more involved. Usually, however, it is simply too much pressure on the nerves that causes the problem. We can use ultrasound imaging to determine whether you do actually have a neuroma in your foot.

How Do We Stop Feet and Toes From Falling Asleep during Workouts?

Our primary goal is to decrease pressure on the ball of the foot and to stop any sort of compression of the feet. We do this first by utilizing a very specific type of orthotic device in your workout shoes or your biking shoes. To eliminate the problem of numb toes and feet, the orthotic must very aggressively act to reduce pressure on the bottom of the foot.

To accomplish this, the orthotic must conform extremely close to the arch of the foot – these are called total contact orthotics”. Total contact orthotics are far more effective than standard orthotics at transferring pressure off of the ball of the foot (1-3).

We will also evaluate your shoe fit. If your shoe is even a little bit too tight it can compress the foot and contribute to numb feet and toes.

Numb Feet While Cycling

Bicyclists, in particular, often have trouble with their toes and feet going numb. This occurs because the axis of the pedal tends to run directly under the ball of the foot and puts extreme pressure on the nerves in this area. In addition, biking shoes tend to run small and during a long bike ride, feet tend to swell.

To stop your feet from falling asleep while you are biking, we use a very thin orthotic (made of lightweight carbon graphite material) in your biking shoe. This acts to transfer force off of the ball of the foot and onto the arch, eliminating pressure on the nerves. Be sure to bring your bike shoes in with you.

We will want to evaluate the fit. If the shoe is too small, it won’t matter how good our orthotic is, your feet will still go numb when you bike. We’ll let you know if you will need new bike shoes to help eliminate the problem.

Don’t let your workout be ruined by numb feet and tingling toes. Call us today for an appointment in our Seattle foot and ankle clinic.

Self Treatment for Numb Feet and Tingling Feet During Exercise

Your goal is to reduce pressure on the ball of the foot without taking up any room in the toebox of the shoe that could increase pressure on your foot and irritate the nerves. So you want to use an arch support that is somewhat rigid, conforms to the arch of your foot closely and does not extend out under the toes.

We recommend the Powerstep ProTech 3/4 Length Orthotics – Medical Grade Orthotics. This orthotic is a unique podiatric insole with a high level of support that is designed to transfer pressure off of the ball of the foot in order to relieve numbness and tingling. The 3/4 length allows for toe room even in tighter fitting shoes – even bicycle and soccer shoes.

References:

  • Mueller MJ, Lott DJ, Hastings M. Phys Ther. 2006 Jun;86(6):833-42. Efficacy and mechanism of orthotic devices to unload metatarsal heads in people with diabetes and a history of plantar ulcers.
  • Leslie C. Trotter and Michael Raymond Pierrynowski Changes in Gait Economy Between Full-Contact Custom-made Foot Orthoses and Prefabricated Inserts in Patients with Musculoskeletal Pain: A Randomized Clinical Trial J Am Podiatr Med Assoc 2008 98: 429-435
  • Chalmers AC, Busby C. J Rheumatol. 2000 Jul;27(7):1643-7. Metatarsalgia and rheumatoid arthritis–a randomized, single blind, sequential trial comparing 2 types of foot orthoses and supportive shoes.
  • Leslie C. Trotter and Michael Raymond Pierrynowski The Short-term Effectiveness of Full-Contact Custom-made Foot Orthoses and Prefabricated Shoe Inserts on Lower-Extremity Musculoskeletal Pain: A Randomized Clinical Trial J Am Podiatr Med Assoc 2008 98: 357-363
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