Why Do My Feet Go Numb When I Run? (10 Possible Causes)

Running has numerous benefits for your body. However, if your feet go numb every time you run, you might think differently about running again. 

Don't give up just yet. Foot numbness is a normal occurrence with running.

Like when you're seated in the same position for too long, running can also cause a pins-and-needles sensation.

Why does this happen? Is there a way to prevent it from happening again?

In this article, we will discuss the different causes of foot numbness, how to keep it from happening, and how different surfaces can affect the sensation of your foot when running.

1. Ill-Fitting Footwear

The most common reason for foot numbness for runners is wearing shoes that don’t fit them right. If your shoes are too tight, they can put pressure on the nerves of your foot. 

Because of the tightness, the metatarsal region is squeezed, compressing the nerves and blood vessels that supply the toes and feet.

Most people focus on getting shoes that are the right length for their feet.

While this is an important aspect of the shoe's fit, it's not the common reason for the constant pressure on the nerves. It's actually the width of the shoe that makes them tight.

That’s why it’s important to check the shape of your feet. Some people need an extra-large toe box or the area at the front of the shoe of your forefoot.

Here are some ways to check if it’s your shoes that give you this uncomfortable sensation:

  • Put your shoes on and check if you have little room to wiggle your toes.
  • Try putting a thumb on top of your running shoes, in between the toes and the front end of the show, and check if its width can fit in there.
  • Check the size of your running shoes and ensure that it’s ½ to full size bigger than the size of your regular shoes.

Apart from these things, you should also know that the feet tend to swell when you run, especially if you run outside when it's hot and humid, according to a study.

That's why your running shoes should be at least one-half size or full size bigger than your normal shoe size.

You can also consult a running shoe specialist and check your running gait to find out which shoes are best for you.

Woman Tying Her Shoelaces Before a Run Outdoors

2. Tight Shoe Laces

Another reason why you experience foot numbness is your shoe laces. You may have the right shoe size, but if you tie them tightly, it may cause some issues.

We understand that you just want to secure your shoes when running, but if you knot it too firmly, you can entrap one or more nerves on the top of the foot at your ankle, also called the tarsal tunnel. People with high arches often experience this.

So, if you tie your laces extra tight, try loosening them a bit, especially around your ankle.

If this makes your feet feel insecure, try experimenting with different lacing techniques and see which one can make your shoes feel snug without applying undue pressure over the top of your foot.

A padding under the tongue of your shoe can work too.

3 Faulty Footfall

Apart from your shoes and laces, your running form can make your feet and legs numb.

If you land your heel first with your foot ahead of your body’s center gravity, your feet are in contact with the ground for too long, putting pressure on the foot.

To correct your form, keep your strides short and focus on landing the mid-sole of your foot on every footfall.

This will ensure that your feet will land under your body. Just imagine that you're running on hot coals, which will make your movements light and swift.

Apart from reducing foot numbness, correcting your footfall can also save your energy and lower your risk of shin splints.

You can also approach a physical therapist or running coach to help you correct your form if you need better guidance.

4. Flat Feet

People who suffer from flat feet often feel numbness or tingling when running.

This is because a greater portion of their foot is in contact with the ground with their every step, which leads to overly constricting the blood vessels and nerves of the arch and sole, causing numbness.

If this is your foot structure, make sure you use orthotics to support proper foot alignment. It can also correct the stresses on the foot.

In some cases, you may need custom orthotics to address the concern. Most of the time, an over-the-counter orthotic works fine.

Suggested Gear - Best Running Shoes For Flat Feet

5. Overtraining & Overstriding

Apart from faulty footfall, overstriding is another running form issue that can make your feet tingle and numb.

When you land on your heel instead of your midfoot, you're not only causing pressure on your nerves to supply the plantar aspect (sole) of your foot but can also increase the risk of injuries like shin splints.

At the same time, overtraining can lead to this condition as well. Be sure to get some rest in between your runs and correct your form as soon as possible.

Man in Black Running on the Beach

6. Muscle Tightness

Stiff, tight muscles can result in anatomical conditions that can put pressure on the nerves of your feet.

This doesn't only happen when you run. In some cases, sitting in front of a computer all day can make your hip flexors tight.

Of course, you can try to keep your torso perfectly erect, but after some time, it will like to curve forward, putting pressure on your sciatic nerve.

So, if you are prone to muscle tightness, take a few minutes to do some warm-up exercises before you start running.

This will loosen your muscles, stopping your feet from feeling numb. It would be best if you also stretched after every run.

If stretching before and after running aren’t enough, try incorporating flexibility exercises into your regimen. A yoga practice once or twice a week can improve your body alignment and flexibility.

You can also try using a foam roller or any massage tool to release some kinks where tightness can impact your nerves, such as your calves, quadriceps, IT band, and hamstrings.

Getting a regular sports massage can also help your muscles.

Further Reading - Why Are My Muscles So Tight?

7. Neuroma

Apart from your form and shoes, another factor that can cause you to experience numbness is a medical condition called Morton’s neuroma.[1]

This painful condition is known to entrap, thicken, and compress a nerve in your forefoot between the toes as a result of scar tissue.

It usually develops between the third and fourth toes, near the balls of feet, but it can also happen between the second and third toes or adjacent toes.

This condition is caused by habitually wearing shoes that are too tight like narrow high heels or flats, which leads to excessive compression of the nerves.

It is also prevalent in women who wear poor-fitting shoes for an extended period.

Apart from numbness, this can cause other symptoms like pain, pressure, and prickling sensation in your toes or the ball of the foot.

8. Peripheral Neuropathy

If you're sure that it's not your shoes or form that's causing numbness on your feet and toes, there's a chance that you probably have peripheral neuropathy.

This condition is caused by damage to your blood vessels and nerves that are part of your nervous system responsible for transmitting information from your brain and spinal cord to the rest of your body.

Its symptoms include numbness on the feet, and prickling, loss of feeling, and paresthesia, where your feet fall asleep.

Peripheral neuropathy is caused by various reasons, but the most common ones are diabetes and frostbite.

It can also indicate severe, underlying diabetes, so be sure to immediately consult your doctor if you think you're suffering from this condition.

9. Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

Another nerve issue that could cause you to experience tingling and numbness in your feet is tarsal tunnel syndrome.

As you might have guessed, this is similar to carpal tunnel syndrome, but instead of your wrist, it is a condition in your ankle.[2]

On the inside (medial) of the ankle, the tarsal tunnel houses a vein, artery, and tibial nerve. Compressing this part of your ankle can cause your foot to be numb.

That's why it's important to keep your laces snug but not too tight at the ankle. If it is, it may restrict blood flow, which can worsen this condition.

10. Sciatic Nerve Issues

Numbness is usually caused by a nerve issue, which decreases the blood flow in a certain area of the body. One condition that may cause this is a problem with the sciatic nerve.

This nerve starts from your back and runs down to your entire leg and branches into nerves that supply the foot.

If there’s compression on the nerve where it originates, it can cause numb toes when running.[3]

Anyone can deal with sciatica from poor posture, other back injuries, or tight piriformis muscles.

Experiencing sciatica can sound scary but physical therapy can help with this nerve compression and alleviate its symptoms.

Woman in Orange Tank Top Holding Her Knee After Running

What Exactly Is Foot Numbness When Running?

Numbness of the feet can present itself in different ways. Some people may feel like their feet are falling asleep, while others will feel a loss of sensation in various parts of their feet.

In some cases, one or more toes are numb.

Apart from numbness or loss of sensation, some runners report a tingling sensation like the pins-and-needles feeling that people usually feel after sitting cross-legged for long periods.

This feeling is called paresthesia.


Different Running Surfaces Explained

Most runners don't usually pay attention to the surface they train on. However, like your shoes, it can also affect the sensations of your feet.

Here are some of the most common running surfaces and how they can help build strength:

  • Grass (Natural Landscape)
    Grass and smoother trails are softer but a little more unstable compared to cement or concrete. Because of this, it can build foot and ankle strength. However, your legs will need to work harder for you to run faster on this surface.
  • Cement (Man-Made Environment)
    A man-made environment like concrete is the most accessible running surface. Unlike the natural landscape, they don't have many obstructions, making it easier to run faster. Still, it is one of the hardest surfaces to run on, which can put a lot of stress on your feet and toes.
  • Treadmill or Elliptical Machine
    These types of equipment are the safest surfaces to run on. They also allow busy individuals to squeeze in workouts at home or stay safe during harsh weather conditions. They can alter your gait, making it stressful for your feet when you try to run again outside.

What to Do About Numb Feet When Running

Check Your Shoes

Using the right shoe can often address this problem quickly. If you feel like your shoes are too tight, immediately buy new shoes, as continuously using the same one can cause more problems.

Remember, your feet swell when you run outside, especially during hotter days. It's best to get shoes that are at least one-half or full size larger than your regular shoe size.

Remember to check your laces as well. Make sure it's not too tight so it won't compress your nerves.

Consider Using Orthotic Insoles

If you have flat feet, you should consider seeing a podiatrist. They can help you find the right shoe inserts or orthotic soles that you wear inside your shoes.

If you suffer from Morton's neuroma, your doctor will prescribe metatarsal pads to help lift and separate the metatarsal heads, removing any pressure on the nerves.

Consider Your Stride

Overstriding can cause numbness in your feet. Most of the time, you can correct your stride easily by making sure your mid-sole lands first instead of your heel.

If you still can't correct it, consider getting a personal trainer.

Consider The Surface

The running surface can also contribute to this sensation, so consider running on surfaces that don’t aggravate your symptoms.

Some surfaces can cause muscle trauma, which can keep you from running again.

Man in Black Shorts and Orange Shoes Running on Asphalt

Questions About Foot Numbness While Running

When should I worry about foot numbness?

If it’s causing you to trip or fall frequently, you should go to the doctor right away.

Will numbness in toes go away if I keep running?

No, it doesn’t. If you start feeling numb, stop exercising and get some rest. Overtraining can cause your situation to worsen.

Do compression socks help with numb feet?

Yes, it can help with numb feet. Compression athletic socks can help prevent poor blood circulation and can reduce uncomfortable sensations like numbness, tingling, and paresthesia, the sensation when your foot falls asleep.


Conclusion

Now that you know the common reasons for numb feet, make sure you take action to solve them. While some causes aren’t as major as others, it’s best to address the issue right when you feel it. 

If you keep ignoring it, it may aggravate your condition, making it more challenging to fix the problem.

References: 

1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mortons-neuroma/symptoms-causes/syc-20351935
2. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/tarsal-tunnel-syndrome
3. https://www.spine-health.com/blog/could-your-foot-pain-be-caused-problem-your-spine

Last Updated on January 17, 2023