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Why Do My Toes Go Numb When Walking?

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Updated April 17, 2014

Lace Your Shoe to Prevent Numb Toes

Lace Your Shoe to Prevent Numb Toes

Wendy Bumgardner ©
Question: Why Do My Toes Go Numb When Walking?
Question: My toes go numb when walking on the treadmill for 45 minutes. I don't have toe numbness when I go shopping for 45 minutes, so what could be the problem?
Answer: Toes go numb from reduced blood circulation or from nerve damage. If your toes feel numb only during sustained walking, then first try to rule out the most obvious cause - your shoes. Are your shoes are too tight or too short and that is restricting the circulation and making the toes go numb? Even if you think your shoes are big enough, your foot may be sliding forward in them with each step to cause this problem.

Are Your Shoes Too Tight?

Your feet swell during sustained walking, as much as a full shoe size. Your walking shoes should be a size larger than your dress shoes, or even larger. Your shoes also need a wide-enough toe box to allow your foot to swell for width as well as length. If either the length of the shoe or the width is too small or too narrow, you may be cutting off blood flow to your toes or impinging on nerves.
Choosing the Right Shoes

Lacing Your Shoes to Prevent Foot Numbness

Give your toes enough room in the toe box by lacing them so that the shoelaces at the toe end of the shoe are loose to allow for expansion. Use various lacing techniques so that you can tighten the fit at the ankle without tightening it at the toe. You want a tight lacing at the ankle so your foot stays in the heel of the shoe and doesn't slide forward with each step. That cuts off toe circulation and can traumatize your toes. You can do this using a lace lock lacing trick, or by using two sets of laces per shoe - one for the toe end, one for the ankle end.
Shoe Lacing to Fit

Your Stride

Many walkers curl their toes under when they walk, which not only traumatizes the toes, but also doesn't let your foot flatten out as you roll through a step. Others walk with a tense "toes up" position. Pay attention to what you are doing with your toes and try to relax them and let them flatten out with each step rather than holding them up or curling them under. Your foot should roll through the step, heel striking first, rolling through, and then pushing off with the toes.

Medical Conditions Causing Numb Toes

Numb toes can be an important symptom even if it clears up with changes to your shoes and lacing. Discuss this with your doctor at your next check-up even if it goes away. If your toe numbness continues after making changes to your shoe fit and lacing, make an appointment for a check-up and discuss this with your doctor.

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