Numbness in the feet is a particularly bothersome condition that sometimes afflicts runners. A number of factors can cause foot numbness, although the condition doesn't typically set in until a mile or two of running. Self-treatment is often sufficient for treating numb feet, although persistent conditions may require closer examination by a doctor.
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Foot numbness while running is characterised by a number of symptoms. In some cases, numbness might result after the calf muscle begins to cramp. Distinct parts of the foot can be impacted, such as the toes, ball, arch or heel. The sensation itself can range from a minor tingling to full-fledged numbness of the foot, where all feeling is gone.
Many factors can spur foot numbness while running. The natural cushioning of the foot thins with age, providing less shock absorption. Tight-fitting shoes can constrict the nerves that run to the foot. Furthermore, nerve compression resulting from a deteriorated disc in the lower back can produce foot numbness.
More serious causes should also be considered. The inability of the fascia, or tissue along the bottom of the foot, to expand during running could compress nerve and blood vessels, and create numbness, a condition known as chronic exertional compartment syndrome. Popliteal artery compression syndrome occurs when the popliteal artery behind the knee is compressed during running. This can restrict blood flow to foot muscles and create tingling or numbness.
Treating foot numbness might be as simple as finding better-fitting shoes. Running shoes should fit snugly but not so tight as to restrict blood flow. Inserts can help improve cushioning, although inserts and shoes should be replaced regularly as their shock-absorbing capabilities wane. If a deteriorating disc is to blame, shortening your stride could help alleviate foot numbness during a run.
Sustained foot numbness may indicate a more serious underlying health problem and necessitate professional help. A sports medicine doctor can help determine the causes and potential treatments of foot numbness, while a physiotherapist can also be helpful in treating the condition on a frequent basis.
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