What causes numb feet when you exercise? Geelong Podiatrist, Danny Hegarty, explains

Recently, we have seen an increase in younger clients presenting at our Geelong Podiatry clinic with numbness and burning feelings in their feet when exercising. It is something that can have many different causes so in this blog we will try and unpack some of the more common factors.


Symptoms of numbness, pin and needles, tingling and burning are all signs of nerve irritation. There can be a very wide range of symptoms and pain levels which are unique to the person experiencing them. 


Symptoms can be caused by one or many of the below factors so an appointment for a full examination is recommended if you are experiencing any symptoms. 




Shoes that are too narrow can cause compression across the forefoot and essentially squeeze the nerves that are between the metatarsals. This is seen more in sports that require tighter fitting shoes like rock climbing or cycling. People with wider feet are more susceptible to this for obvious reasons. We tend to see this in particular with new footwear. Often an update of shoes (or stretching of current shoes) is a big help.


Foot posture


The shape of your feet can be a factor and in particular a high arch foot type which places the forefoot under increased load. If foot posture is a concern then foot orthotics or in shoe padding may be a great option for symptom relief. 




The way that we move can have an impact on developing local nerve irritation in our feet. If you spend increased time on your forefoot with walking and running it can have an overload effect and cause altered sensation. This is also true of tight calf muscles which can also increase forefoot loading. 




The type of sport or activity you play can have an impact on your feet going numb. Repetitive sports like cycling and running can increase your risk especially if you have biomechanical and foot posture risk factors. Another risk factor is doing ‘too much, too soon’ so gradual build up in activity is advised. 


If assessed and managed we usually see good results with addressing the training load and setting sensible activity goals combined with addressing any other factors. 


Vitamin deficiency 


A lack of vitamin B can cause numbness in the feet but will likely present with a range of other symptoms such as dizziness, general fatigue, shortness of breath and nausea. A blood test organised via your GP can investigate this further. 


Lower back injury 


Injury to the nerves in your lower back can affect the sensation in the legs and feet. Sometimes there is an isolated event which you can trace symptoms back to (like a bulging disc injury) and other times it may be a gradual progression over time (such as osteoarthritis causing compression of spinal nerves). Usually if the back is the main cause of symptoms having management from specialist in this area is advised. 

As always, if you have any questions please feel free to reach out or get in contact,

Danny Hegarty – Podiatrist


Disclaimer – this blog is for educational purposes and if you are experiencing any symptoms then we recommend you book in with a Podiatrist as soon as possible for a thorough assessment.