Numb big toes
May 11, 2008 6:16 PM   Subscribe

The tips and the outer sides of both my friend's big toes are numb. It started about a week ago, maybe more. What could the cause be?

She is training for a marathon, and she wears high heels to work most days of the week. Could her shoes be making the tips of her toes numb by pinching a nerve? I googled around but nothing seems promising...has anyone else had experience with this?
posted by holympus to Health & Fitness (14 answers total)
It could be many things, some serious (but uncommon) nerve problems. She should call her doctor.
posted by zippy at 6:20 PM on May 11, 2008

It could definitely be her shoes, or something about her running stride, but no one here will know for sure. She could try switching shoes and holding off on running for a week or so to see if that changes anything, but I recommend making a doctor appointment as well. She might say that she doesn't want to stop running with a marathon coming up, so you might have to remind her that her nerve health is far more important than this marathon.
posted by boomchicka at 6:26 PM on May 11, 2008

Summer is coming, more people switch from heels to flip flops and it really confuses the feet. Something about the tendons shortening, then being stretched again. If it is because of shoes (which I highly suspect), a good exercise is to "write" the alphabet with the foot while sitting down to get everything flexible and stretched out again.
posted by idiotfactory at 6:38 PM on May 11, 2008

That happens to me whenever I start wearing sandals again. It goes away. But ymmv.
posted by heavenstobetsy at 7:00 PM on May 11, 2008

Oh. Like what idiotfactory said.
posted by heavenstobetsy at 7:00 PM on May 11, 2008

Not to be an alarmist, but sometimes foot tingling can be a sign of a neurological condition (first-hand experience here). If it continues, even after your friend does foot stretches and wears more friendly shoes for a while, I would suggest going to a doctor for a checkup, and perhaps to a neurologist.
posted by phunniemee at 7:52 PM on May 11, 2008

I couldn't feel the top of one of my big toes for three months after four consecutive days of wearing an old pair of sandals about three years ago. It's been fine since then.

High heels during the day and marathon training in the evening is a lot of abuse on the toes.
posted by MillMan at 8:06 PM on May 11, 2008

My partner had foot numbness as an early indicator of MS, but DON'T PANIC. As soon as I read `high heels' and `marathon training' I thought `that would be it'. The pounding on the ground from the training and the pointiness of the shoes would probably be enough to cause it, heck I made half my little finger go numb for a month by banging a piece of wood with the side of my fist.

Anyway, IANAD, but if it were me I'd give it a little time and if it was no better, see a doctor.
posted by tomble at 11:19 PM on May 11, 2008

I had the exact same problem you describe with my big toes. This happened to me during basic training in the military, and I blame it on the way I stood at attention + length of time I had to do that + boots that were a bit too tight. When I went to see a doctor about it she just gave me a stack of vitamin B supplements and told me to take them daily. Apparently vitamin B helps with nerve regeneration/recovery. I didn't take the supplements very judiciously, but the problem did go away after awhile.
posted by nihraguk at 7:15 AM on May 12, 2008

I've experienced toe numbness. Here's what I did. I brought it up with my GP. She referred me to a neurologist. I had a 10 minute appointment with the neurologist and he determined that I didn't have any issues. Then I was off to a podiatrist for an examination and that resulted in my getting some special insoles made up and a steroid injection. My gait and my shoes had combined to put pressure on some nerves.

That was a few years ago. Since then, most of the toe numbness as gone away and I know what to keep an eye out for when I get new shoes or if I'm being extra hard on my feet. The numbness has gone away for the most part, although I have a little bit of it still on one of my big toes, but it's pretty minor.
posted by ursus_comiter at 7:19 AM on May 12, 2008

HAS gone away.
posted by ursus_comiter at 7:20 AM on May 12, 2008

This could be a peripheral neuropathy, or at least that's what it sounds like. Nihraguk was right, sometimes this can be caused by a B vitamin deficiency. Or, if that doesn't work it could be a medication your friend is taking, or something. I guess the first thing she should try is the obvious - wearing less straining shoes - but if that doesn't change it quickly then I would suggest seeing a doctor. You don't want permanent neurological damage. I learned that the hard way, and now have significantly decreased sensitivity in my toes.
posted by howgenerica at 10:13 AM on May 12, 2008

In my opinion, a trip to the general doc and then, if other conditions are cleared, a trip to a podiatrist would be in order. They can do a lot of fancy things with shoes that your friend won't be able to do on her own.
posted by sondrialiac at 10:53 AM on May 12, 2008

Go to your doctor ASAP and have your blood sugar level checked. Numbness in the toes is one of the first physical signs of uncontrolled diabetes.
posted by KRS at 11:58 AM on May 12, 2008

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