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What causes foot numbness when running?

What causes foot numbness when running?


Foot numbness is a relatively common problem for runners and is normally easily remedied. You will find numbness in one part of your foot or just in your toes. Occasionally it may occur throughout the whole foot. In addition to numbness, some runners experience pins and needles in their foot. Your numbness could be caused by a compressed nerve. A compressed nerve causes a decrease in the sensation to the areas the compressed nerve supplies. There are varying reasons which cause the numbness and many ways in which it can be eased.

Poorly fitting shoes is one reason runners may experience numbness of their feet. You should wear a running shoe a half a size bigger than normal because the bigger shoe allows for your feet to swell. Adequate room around the toe box is also important. The mid and forefoot spreads on impact when running so must be enough space to allow for this. If your laces are too tight, you could cause a nerve compression at the front of your ankle. This is particularly common in individuals with high arches. To ease this, loosen laces to relieve any pressure points and vary how you tie your laces e.g. every second loophole.

Morton’s Neuroma/ Numbness

Numbness or tingling around 2 toes, particularly the 2nd to 3rd is often indicative of a condition called Morton’s Neuroma. Morton’s Neuroma occurs when your nerve is repeatedly compressed. This compression can thicken and develop scar tissue. This compression can be eased using padding under the forefoot to prevent compression of the nervous tissues and wearing running shoes that are more rigid and stiff through the front of the shoe. Your physiotherapist may also identify components of your running technique¬†which may need to be adjusted to prevent an overload through the forefoot. Being flatfooted or overpronating will also increase the risk of developing Morton’s Neuroma.

Compartment syndrome is another condition which may cause foot numbness when running. Compartment syndrome due to running is generally described as exertional compartment syndrome. In your lower leg, your muscles, bones, nerves and vessels are divided into separate compartments.  These compartments are covered by a tough membrane called fascia. When running, muscles swell because the fascia does not expand. This places increased pressure on vessels and nerves, therefore causing loss of sensation. Compartment syndrome can be treated with rest, working on running biomechanics, massage and stretching. Your physiotherapist can assess and treat this condition accordingly.

Another cause for decreased sensation which can be ruled out on assessment by your physiotherapist is nerve impingement at the lumbar spine. This could cause numbness of the foot, but would generally be present with many other postures and activities besides running.

If you have been experiencing the symptoms above and have not been able to determine the cause, contact us here today. Our physiotherapists, are experienced in assessing and managing running related injuries.

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