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Why Do My Feet Go Numb on the Elliptical?

The elliptical machine is a great, low-impact alternative that still provides a good aerobic workout for those with bad knees, hips, and back. If you’ve been riding one for a while though, you may experience numbness in the feet and toes from time to time.

The experience can certainly be annoying—it can break your focus and disrupt your cardio workout. You may even wonder if you’ve traded one ailment for another. But have no fear, this can happen to everyone. While annoying, it’s usually not a sign of something more serious.

Why is my foot going numb?

“Foot numbness, also known as paresthesia, is a very common phenomenon while using the elliptical,” said Kimberly Steward, center manager at Banner Physical Therapy in Sun City, Arizona. “Constant pressure on a nerve or aspect of your foot for a prolonged period of time can cause you to experience numbness in your toes and feet.”

Repetitive motion and pressure placed on the balls of your feet and toes can reduce the blood flow to that area. If your shoes are too small or laces are too tight, you may experience numbness as your feet swell while exercising.

How can I avoid foot numbness?

Dr. Steward provides four potential solutions worth trying to get blood flow back to your feet:

  1. Try larger shoes. A larger shoe size can accommodate for swelling that occurs in the feet and will give your piggies more room to wiggle. If it’s too tight in the toe box, you can experience tingling. But keep in mind, if your shoes are too loose, your toes may grip excessively in the shoe, which can also cause tingling. Best advice: Purchase workout shoes about a half size larger than you would normally purchase.
  2. Pedal backward. As you begin to experience numbness, pedal backward for a couple of minutes. Doing this can change the pressure distribution in the foot, allowing decompression of a nerve or return of blood flow to a smaller compartment of the foot.
  3. Move heel to toe. Mimicking the natural heel to toe pressure you experience while walking can alleviate some of the constant pressure on the forefoot.
  4. Shorten time on the elliptical. It may help to shorten the duration of your workout or take intermittent breaks.

What happens if I continue to work out through the numbness?

“It is not advised to work through the numbness,” Dr. Steward cautioned. “The loss of feeling in your feet can throw off your balance, putting you at risk for falls. Be very careful when dismounting.”

Are you experiencing continued numbness or foot pain?

If you notice that numbness comes on with other activities and is accompanied by other symptoms, such as pain, burning, or weakness, this may be an indication of other causes of nerve irritation that is best addressed by a doctor’s assessment. Schedule an appointment with a Banner Health specialist to be evaluated.

Fitness Orthopedics Wellness Physical Therapy