We’ve all experienced that uncomfortable pins and needles sensation when a foot falls asleep. But if it’s happened to you while running, you might be concerned about what it means.
Although it may seem odd to experience numbness in a limb while using it, having numb feet when running isn’t uncommon! Here’s why it happens and what you can do to prevent it.
What is foot numbness from running?
Runners don’t always experience numb feet when running in the same way. For example, you might notice a loss of sensation in any of the following areas:
- The side of your foot
- The top of your foot
- The sole of your foot
- One or more toes
You might also feel that familiar pins and needles sensation all over your foot, similar to what happens when you sit cross-legged for too long.
Why you might get numb feet when running: 7 possible reasons
There can be several reasons why your feet feel numb when running. Here are some of the most common causes.
Jumping into running full force as a beginner or suddenly ramping up the intensity of your training program and duration of your runs can cause injuries. Common ones include tendonitis, ruptured tendons, and stress fractures.1
In some cases, you might also experience swelling in your feet, which may press on your nerves and cause numbness.
To avoid overuse injuries and numb feet when running, take it slow! Gradually increase your mileage by about 10 percent a week if you want to run further. If you’re just starting your running journey, begin with the run/walk method to ease into it. And if you feel extra tired or sore after a run, it’s probably your body telling you that you need rest.
Dehydration can constrict your blood vessels and make you retain water, leading to increased swelling and nerve compression.
To avoid this, drink more water and add electrolytes so it works better for you. Watch for symptoms of dehydration, such as dizziness, headaches, tiredness, and dry lips and mouth.
3. Tight muscles
If your muscles are tight, they won’t be able to move through their full range of motion, and other parts of your body will compensate. Muscle tightness in specific areas like your quadriceps, calves, or hamstrings can put additional pressure on the nerves in your feet, causing numbness.
Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to relieve muscle tightness and prevent this from happening. For example, warming up before every run and cooling down afterward will go a long way to help loosen stiff and inflexible muscles.
You can also create a fitness routine incorporating flexibility exercises, like yoga and foam rolling. Regular massages can also help work out kinks and tightness in your muscles.
4. Poor-fitting shoes
If your running shoes are too small, they can squeeze your feet and put additional pressure on your nerves, resulting in numb feet when running. When you run, your feet also swell, making your shoes feel too tight.
Tying your laces too tightly can also compress the nerves on the tops of your feet, causing numbness.
Fixing this issue is easy, although it will require an investment in new running shoes. If you need help, head to a running store and work with a professional shoe fitter to figure out how to pick the best running shoes for you.
Ultimately, securing the right fit will require finding a pair that fits the length and width of your foot, offers proper support, and accommodates your specific running gait.
5. Running form
Your running form can sometimes put too much pressure on your feet, leading to numb feet when running.
For example, overstriding is a common mishap among runners. When you overstride, your heel lands on the ground first, and your foot is ahead of your center of gravity. This type of stride puts your feet in contact with the ground too long, compressing blood vessels in your feet and causing numbness.2,3
Learning the correct running form is the best way to prevent foot numbness and running-associated injuries. You can also vary your running terrain to help prevent overuse injuries and equalize the pressure in other areas of your feet instead of repeatedly putting pressure on the same nerves.
6. Your foot arches
If you have flat feet or more flexible arches, you’re more likely to experience numb feet when running due to excess nerve compression.4
Shoe inserts, called orthotics, can help correct this and ease any numbness during your runs. You can pick them up at running stores, Walmart, or even online on Amazon.
However, if you find that they’re not helping or you can’t find the right fit, it might be worth seeing a podiatrist (a foot doctor) for a custom fitting.
7. Medical conditions
In some cases, having numb feet when running may result from an ongoing untreated medical condition. Examples can include:
- Neuropathy: Nerve damage can sometimes affect your feet and occur sporadically in its earliest phases. Sometimes, diabetes can prompt this condition.
- Neuroma: If you have a nerve injury, you might develop a benign tumor called neuroma. A particular type of neuroma, called Morton’s neuroma, can affect your feet and toes and might be the culprit of any numbness you’re feeling.
- Cardiovascular disease: Heart disease can lead to swelling in your legs and may also reduce blood supply, which can cause numbness in your feet.
- Raynaud’s disease: This condition causes your small blood vessels to constrict in the cold, including those in your toes. Sometimes, this can lead to numb feet when running.
- Sciatic nerve issues: Your sciatic nerve runs from your glutes to your feet, and if it becomes inflamed or compressed, you can experience pain or numbness in your feet and other areas.
If your foot numbness is resistant to treatment, we recommend seeing your doctor to rule out any of the above medical conditions.
How to prevent foot numbness while running
Depending on how you experience numb feet when running, the best way to prevent it is to consider what might be causing it and take action to modify your lifestyle. For example, try switching your footwear, upping your water intake, or regularly warming up and cooling down after workouts.
Key Takeaways:Having numb feet when running is common among runners. Several straightforward solutions can help you find relief, but if nothing seems to work, it’s probably time to see your doctor and rule out any medical conditions.
- Too Much of a Good Thing Can Cause Overuse Injuries of the Foot – Foot Health Facts. (n.d.). https://www.foothealthfacts.org/article/too-much-of-a-good-thing-can-cause-overuse-injurie
- Souza, R. D. (2016). An Evidence-Based Videotaped Running Biomechanics Analysis. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America, 27(1), 217–236. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pmr.2015.08.006
- Souza, R. D. (2016b). An Evidence-Based Videotaped Running Biomechanics Analysis. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America, 27(1), 217–236. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pmr.2015.08.006
Souza, R. D. (2016b). An Evidence-Based Videotaped Running Biomechanics Analysis. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America, 27(1), 217–236. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pmr.2015.08.006