Cardio and numbness should not mix
June 28, 2011 8:26 AM   Subscribe

My feet tend to go numb when I'm doing cardio (elliptical, treadmill, spinning, stairclimber.) Am I doing it wrong?

I've been on a slow but steady weight loss journey and I'm seeking to increase my speed and stamina via cardio. I try to do interval training for 20-40 minutes, depending on my time crunch. But I notice that after I'm really in gear, I get numb in either one or both feet. It's not so uncomfortable that I need to stop, but it definitely slows me down.

Could it be the way I'm landing my feet or taking off? Is there a proper form I should be following?
posted by Anima Mundi to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Try stiffer-soled shoes. And loosen your laces a little; you should be able to wiggle your toes every so often.
posted by peachfuzz at 8:31 AM on June 28, 2011

I had the same thing happen to me on elliptical machines. IANAD but I think it is because of the thicker soles on my running shoes and how you are not flexing or bending your feet at all when using those machines, which is, in my opinion, counter productive with regards to how humans evolved for running.

My own experience had me also trying to run on sidewalks to increase my stamina. But my knees would just feel wonky or hurt if I did that too many times a week. I switched to Vibram Five Fingers about two months ago and running on the grass next to the sidewalks. The difference has really been amazing for me - I can run three or more times a week and my knees don't hurt and my feet don't get numb.
posted by jillithd at 8:34 AM on June 28, 2011

Best answer: I had the same problem when I was out of shape. Once you start to get back into better shape, things will get better. I specifically went to a podiatrist about this and he told me to loosen my shoe laces as they were cutting off the vein in the top of my foot causing my feet to go numb. He also recommended some arch supporting orthotics. It really only went away when I started to get back in shape though.
posted by TheBones at 8:37 AM on June 28, 2011

This has been a bad shoes/bad shoelace problem for me. Do your shoes really, truly fit? Are they old? Are you tying them super tight?
posted by brainmouse at 8:37 AM on June 28, 2011

I've had the same problem, even when in very good running shape, but only on the elliptical. I never figured it out before having to be on this break due to knee problems, but I did find a workaround on the elliptical: every few minutes, reverse direction and go back to front instead of front to back.

I'm surprised to hear you have the problem on a treadmill, since you're picking up your foot and putting it back down, unlike with typical use of the elliptical. That says to me it's probably a shoe problem. I second getting flatter, thinner-soled shoes that allow your feet to bend more. Have you tried a runner's store?
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 8:43 AM on June 28, 2011

This happens to me when running outside -- mainly on sidewalk (vs. grass, dirt track). Been trying to figure it out as well.
posted by zeikka at 8:44 AM on June 28, 2011

Nthing that your laces might be too tight. Your shoes might be too small, even; most people wear a larger size in running shoes than in street shoes. (If your shoes are the right size everywhere, but feel too loose in the ankle, try this lacing technique to support the ankles a little better.)

As you ramp up your workout, choosing the right shoes becomes more and more important. Shoes that feel okay on the bike or elliptical might feel really uncomfortable when you run.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:46 AM on June 28, 2011

I sometimes get numb feet on my bike, but only when I'm wearing certain shoes. I'd switch up the shoes and see if it makes a difference.
posted by beau jackson at 8:46 AM on June 28, 2011

I had this problem all the time until I switched to the Skechers Shape-Ups. Their other "benefits" are in question, but they are the most comfortable shoes I have ever owned, and no more numbness.
posted by getawaysticks at 8:49 AM on June 28, 2011

This happened to someone I know (on an elliptical, though). I believe she went to a running store and got a professional gait analysis, then had them recommend some shoes based on that. I'm not sure, but I think the analysis was free -- the idea is to sell you the right shoes.
posted by SuperNova at 9:04 AM on June 28, 2011

In addition to loosening the laces, you might try not lacing through the top set of eyelets, or even the top two sets, depending on how close to your ankle they lace.

I always say I have claustrophobic ankles. If shoes are too high up on my ankle bone, or laced too close to the base of my shin, my feet fall asleep and when I run it feels like there is a brick taped to my foot. Unlacing the top two sets of eyelets usually solves this problem.
posted by peep at 9:28 AM on June 28, 2011

N'thing that this might be caused by a shoe problem. Could be the shoe itself or over tightened laces.

The exact same thing used to happen to me and when I loosened how I tied them, that helped. When that stopped helping, I replaced the sneakers (and they needed it....I was very slow to notice) and haven't experience the problem since.
posted by PsuDab93 at 10:02 AM on June 28, 2011

Nthing the too-tightly laced shoes hypothesis. I had a similar problem when I exercised regularly and didn't know what was causing it until I was watching an aerobics show on TV and the host mentioned that as you get more fit you tend to lose weight and firm up even in your feet and you'll eventually notice that your shoes are fiting a lot looser than they used to. It then occurred to me that I had indeed been lacing my sneakers up tighter - but too tight.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:23 AM on June 28, 2011

In your case it may well be shoes.
In general, if a person gets numbness in their limbs (eg left leg goes numb) when exercising, they should talk to a doctor because it can indicate something more serious.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:54 AM on June 28, 2011

Best answer: In addition to too-tight laces, you could have socks that are too tight. Make sure your socks aren't pulled too tightly over your toes. (Pulling the sock away from my toes a bit and loosening my shoelaces has helped me with this problem.)
posted by pupstocks at 7:56 PM on June 28, 2011

Response by poster: Did some experimenting today, and yes, shoes and socks were too tight! Thanks, all! :)
posted by Anima Mundi at 9:17 AM on June 29, 2011

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