Experienced runners: To the sports doc for a numb foot?
February 5, 2015 12:37 PM   Subscribe

I’e been having numbness, arch pain and ankle pain in my left foot. Not all at the same time. It moves around. I’m a fairly avid runner, about 40 miles per week in the summer. I haven’t been running much lately though, because of these issues.

The problems started in mid-December, when my coach assigned me a few too many hill repeats. I was getting ankle pain, and backed off for a week. The next week, he went back at it, and I did two hard workouts in a row. That seemed to push me to the breaking point. I told him I felt I needed to take charge of this situation myself.

I haven’t been back since. I’ve been cycling a little bit more, spending some time swimming and on the elliptical. My left foot still feels a little numb.

I know it’s seldom the best idea to turn to the Internet to medical advice, but I’ve been to the orthopedist before (in the winter, too) and typically what I get is a big bill for an appointment and an MRI, and a simple suggestion to rest it more.

I don’t see why I should spend money to hear that advice when I’m following it already, so I thought I’d post here. Is there anything else I should consider? Should I indeed visit the sports doc, or just keep resting it? Thanks!
posted by Borborygmus to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I feel for you, I'm in a similar situation (Achilles trouble, also after doing too much too quickly, and also after having previously trained for a marathon so it's not like I'm a new runner).

I've just seen a physio about my Achilles and one of the symptoms he asked about was numbness (which I don't have, FWIW, but he asked). I'd also say it's definitely worth getting someone like that to look at you and give you stuff to work on so that it doesn't reoccur. As my sports therapist says, "nothing ever goes away through rest" (that is, sure the inflammation will, but unless you correct whatever's causing it, it 's likely to return once you start going back to whatever you were doing before).
posted by ClarissaWAM at 12:47 PM on February 5, 2015

As you can tell from my username I am a runner. I am into distance running with training right now between 60 and 70 miles a week. You have to find a doc that is used to working with athletes. One that is not will just call you crazy and tell you to stop and never run again.

To a totally off the cuff guess to venture maybe Plantar Fasciitis? I have had a bout or two of it over the years, really bad once back when I was starting out as a new runner.

One of the most common ways I would injure myself was by over striding. Long strides and landing on you heel is fine for sprints, but to go the distance keep your stride shorter with mid foot landings. Do some reading on sites like irunfar

I am no doctor so take everything with a bunch of salt :)
posted by WillRun4Fun at 1:37 PM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks guys. I guess I should go to the sports doc...
posted by Borborygmus at 5:00 PM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Seconding WillRun4Fun. All sports docs/physical therapists are not made equal. When I was having typical runner's knee pain after a few miles, one PT told me that a few miles was just the amount that my body was made to run. I've since then run several half and full marathons.

Do you have any running buddies or local running shops (not so much the mall chain stores) near you? They can refer you to docs/therapists whose advice in response to running pain will not indiscriminately be "stop running." The ones who tend to work with a lot of runners will likely not tell you to stop running unless you absolutely have to, due to something serious like a stress fracture or bad inflammation. That's been my experience anyways.
posted by sweetpotato at 5:39 PM on February 5, 2015

I have plantar Faciitis at the moment and this doesn't sound like what my feet feel like. But wanted to chip in and say go the doctor ASAP because if the numbness turns into pain it's no fun at all and it can become near impossible to fix if you ignore the initial signs. Everyone knows this but I've been hobbling about like an 80 year old because i thought it didn't apply to me.
And also - I have found this website of great help in terms of self diagnosis, giving me pointers to tell doctors, stretching to do (and what not to do more vitally). Can't reccomend it enough : http://sock-doc.com
posted by stevedawg at 6:19 PM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Massage therapist here. Initial impressions obviously not having seen you:
Pain that moves around can be symptomatic of something interfering with a nerve.
Is there any swelling around the ankle? Swelling occupies space and can compress nerves.
If there is swelling, the " hill repeats" part of your question makes me think you might have irritated and re-irritated one or more of the tendons that support your arch, a possible culprit being tibialis posterior.

Anyway, see a sports doc or a physical therapist.
posted by flutable at 3:55 AM on February 6, 2015

Response by poster: That makes sense, thanks flutable!
posted by Borborygmus at 6:14 PM on February 7, 2015

Response by poster: Went to see the sports doc today. He says he thinks it was too much too soon on the hill sprints, leading to a bruising of the nerves, as mentioned earlier. Most of the numbness is in the heel of my toes, where my weight is concentrated on hills.

This also explains why the numbness didn't happen in the morning, like with plantar fasciitis. It was more often a few hours after I'd been up that the numbness came. I had put some pressure on that part of my foot by then.

He also asked about my shoes, wondered if my toes were being crammed together because I have wide feet. I think I wear appropriate shoes in the Brooks and Saucony. I know my feet are too wide for Nikes so it was likely just the hill sprints.

Good news! He said I did the right thing by resting, and that I can go back to running a few days after the numbness goes away. It's barely there now, so maybe in another week, I'll be back to normal.

It pretty much went as expected - it was too much too soon, and all I needed to do was rest - but I feel good about seeing him anyway. It confirmed that nothing was seriously wrong, and there were no fractures or structural issues. Well, I feel good about seeing him, at least until the bill for the consultation and the X-rays come in!
posted by Borborygmus at 5:39 AM on February 10, 2015

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