In addition to neck and back pain being fairly common in cyclists, you may also experience toes numb cycling. In some people, this may be a one-off experience; in others, it happens more frequently. There may also be some tingly sensations associated with the numbness. So, is it something you just have to get used to as a rider, or is there something you can do to prevent your toes from going numb while cycling? Turns out that this feeling isn’t natural, and you’re likely doing something wrong to cause the discomfort. If you can find the causes of your cycling foot numbness, you can find the appropriate solution. Fortunately, we delve deeper into both in the sections below.
If you’re toes numb when cycling, it’s probably indicative of an improperly fitting shoe, improper bike fit, incorrect cleat placement as you ride, or different combinations of the three. Here’s some more information on the three causes.
You’re probably used to wearing form-fitting shoes when you go to work or even for a casual stroll on the weekend. However, you can’t wear the same fit when cycling since the increased blood supply to the muscles often results in swollen feet.
If your toes go numb when cycling, it may be that your shoes are too small, which may restrict blood supply to your feet. According to Healthline Trusted Source Poor Circulation: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and More Poor circulation is most common in your extremities, such as your legs and arms. Learn more about the symptoms and causes of poor circulation. www.healthline.com , this is typically caused by poor circulation, and since you’re exercising and increasing your heartbeat in the process, this shouldn’t be the case.
Alternatively, they may be the appropriate size, but you’ve tightened them too tightly.
It may have been harder to solve this problem in the past, given that most cycling shoes came in general sizes. However, now you can find options with multiple adjustment points, so if you have wider feet, you can cater to that. You can also cater to the typical flexion of your feet as you cycle.
Furthermore, most shoes feature insoles and even custom orthotics for better foot support. Opting for one of these high-tech cleats can probably save you from a numb foot when cycling.
Even the insoles can be high-tech, with modern options having metatarsal padding, which reduces pressure on your nerves. That said, if making the adjustments doesn’t work, the shoe size is probably small, and you can benefit by going one size up.
Another common mistake is over-tightening the shoe. It’s possible to tighten your cleats without going overboard, especially since, unlike many other shoes, they’re not designed to be broken in.
Another reason for cycling toe numbness is a poor bike fit. This is especially common with the aggressive riding positions associated with aero bikes. Also, the problem can be exacerbated by other physiological limitations, e.g., strength imbalances, where in most cases, Newswise Trusted Source Dominant Leg Has More Power during Exercise than Non-dominant Leg A new study confirms important differences in dominant- versus non-dominant-leg oxygen usage and power output during single-leg exercise. The study is published www.newswise.com notes that the dominant leg typically produces more strength than its counterpart.
Other examples of physical limitations include leg length discrepancies and muscle tightness.
All these factors combine to stress the pelvic area and lower back. According to the Illinois Bone and Joint Institute Trusted Source Can a Back Problem Cause Foot Pain? - Spine Conditions - IBJI Can a back problem cause foot pain? Learn which spine conditions have symptoms that include discomfort and other problems in your feet. www.ibji.com , the sciatic nerves in your lower back are connected to your feet. As such, straining them may eventually lead to toes going numb when cycling.
As for what you can do to make the problem disappear, you can focus on increasing core strength so you’re better able to handle the riding position without strain. Also, flexibility in the pelvic area is just as important if you’re going to stave off the numbness.
However, the biggest solution is, of course, to get a bike that fits you. For most people, this will be a stock bike, while for a few, a custom bike may be necessary depending on the type of riding you do and the terrain you encounter.
You may also increase your chances of toe numbness by putting extra pressure under the balls of your feet. The nerves in this area are more easily compressed.
This will eventually leave your feet and toes feeling tingly and numb.
Ideally, the cleat should be just behind the ball of your foot, where these kinds of problems are less likely to occur. Naturally, this is also dependent on the fit of your bike.
You can get shoes and a bike with cleat adjustment to fit it to your particular foot. Alternatively, you can go for flat pedals, which are much less likely to cause such problems since you can move your foot more freely.
If you’ve considered switching to flat pedals for your road bike, you should go through our best flat pedals for road bikes list, so you know about available high-quality options.
Notably, numb toes and feet aren’t the only health issue associated with cycling. There are also cycling hemorrhoids which we cover in a different article.
If your toes are numb when cycling, there are ways to temporarily alleviate the discomfort until you find the root cause of the problem. One example is loosening your shoes to reduce compression and allow for blood circulation.
Alternatively, you can get off your bike and massage your feet, and once the tingling and numbness are gone, you can continue with your ride. According to reviewers, the Dr. Numb Topical Anesthetic is a great numbing cream option to use in these scenarios as it can help relieve pain and discomfort, allowing you to get back to riding quickly.
Also, once you get home, continuing to massage will leave you in better shape. Other cyclists even recommend the Nekteck Foot Massager as a handy tool to have at home after those long cycling days, even if you don’t feel any numbness. The device has a built-in heating function that should help your feet muscles relax after straining all day.
That said, the ideal solution is to use preventive measures, so you don’t have to deal with numbness in the first place.
As for how you prevent the problem from popping up, here’s what you do.
As mentioned above, even a shoe that typically fits you in normal circumstances may not be ideal if you’re cycling. After all, your feet are likely to swell. You can try on different shoe sizes; if necessary, you may have to go ½ size up from what you typically wear or use shoes with different adjustments for various areas of your foot.
Also, remember not to over-tighten them.
Socks can also be a huge problem. Some are thicker than others, which may contribute to the added pressure on your feet and eventual numbness. Also, the additional thickness could increase the swelling in your feet.
As for badly fitting socks, they may not feel as tight as thick socks, but they can bunch up in several areas leading to more pressure.
Most modern pedals support the use of cleats. For instance, if you’re looking for the best pedals for gravel bikes, our list of the same based on research and customer reviews lists a few cleat-compatible pedals. As such, you must ensure your cleats are in the right position to keep from adding extra pressure to the nerves under your feet.
As mentioned above, they should be just behind the balls of your feet for optimal comfort without sacrificing power.
Arch supports can also help reduce the strain on the nerves on the underside of your feet. However, make sure that they work with the size of your shoes so you’ll still be able to cater to possible swelling.
If you’re not racing, there’s probably no need to maintain the bent-over posture typical in professional races, especially if it’s causing lower back problems and feet numbness. Getting a hybrid bike rather than a road bike may also help you sit up as you ride.
Another solution for fixing your posture is to visit a bike fitter that will tell you exactly what size bike you need after considering factors like reach and stack height.
One relatively unknown side effect of slowing down your cadence on climbs is adding extra pressure to the balls of your feet, which may eventually lead to numbness. You can correct this by changing the gear ratio so you can maintain the cadence even while climbing.
Finally, you can perform foot exercises before you get on a bike to get the blood flowing up to your toes. Examples include foot rotations, calf stretches, toe curls, heel-toe raises, etc.
If your left foot goes numb when cycling even after you’ve taken all the preventive measures mentioned above, it may be time to see a doctor. They can check things like bone structure, evaluate where the strain comes from, and recommend solutions best suited to your needs.
Overall, having toes numb cycling is something almost every cyclist will experience at some point. Simple solutions should prove sufficient more often than not. For instance, it may be as easy as loosening your shoes. In a few cases, you will need to take drastic measures, like going for a bike refit. Nevertheless, if the numbness persists, it may be time to consider a more drastic course of action.