Running Niggles VI: Numb Feet

Numbness or pins and needles in one or both your feet when running is a common complaint. It isn’t usually anything to worry about but it can be frustrating and annoying and very occasionally it is a sign of something more serious.

Here are some simple things you can try to stop it happening and advice on when you should seek expert help.

Loosen your laces

The superficial nerves in the skin don’t like being squashed! Even if your laces feel loose enough when you start, your feet can swell when you run, especially over long distances.

Lace up differently

Everybody’s feet are individual and you can adapt your lacing style to fit your foot shape. For example, a high foot arch or wide forefoot might benefit from a lacing pattern which takes the pressure off those areas. Search online for different techniques.

Go up a size

Sounds simple but sometimes our running shoes just aren’t big enough. Go up at least half a size from your regular shoes. Remember that our feet change as we get older, particularly after pregnancy, so your foot size and width can alter. If you have wide feet you might benefit from a men’s shoe. 

Change your brand

Runners often get very loyal with their running shoes but if you are having problems then it sometimes worth trying a new model or even a new brand.

Simple shoe issues can be sorted out in a good running shop with a variety of shoes and a treadmill for you to try them out on but recurrent and stubborn numbness problems are best assessed by a podiatrist. Other structures in the foot can compress the nerves. Swollen muscles, cysts and overgrowths of bone can all do this. Sometimes a foot nerve becomes thickened, this is known as a Morton’s neuroma.  Problems like these and with the biomechanics of the foot require specialist guidance. Custom made insoles and specific exercises can be used to address muscle imbalances and make the foot more comfortable.

It’s important to know that occasionally, foot numbness can be due to underlying medical conditions. When the nerves in the extremities are affected it is called a peripheral neuropathy and this can occur in diabetes, hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), alcoholism and some vitamin deficiencies including B12.

You should see your doctor for an assessment if:

  • Both feet are affected
  • You get numbness at times when you aren’t running
  • You have other symptoms that might suggest an underlying cause such as fatigue, weight loss, urinary frequency or leg swelling.


Become a 261 Coach

and change women’s lives

» learn more