Reason for numb toes

BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images

Extremities like toes can go numb for a variety of reasons ranging from intermediate lack of circulation to tight shoes or more serious nervous conditions. A diagnosis can be difficult to make unless the patient follows the numbness to record exactly when the sensation occurs.

Doctors must check a number of issues to rule out serious disorders.


Broken toes are quite common and do not always incapacitate a person. A broken toe can be the result of a fall or trip and not even be noticed by the person until the nerves begin to throb and numbness follows. Bruising and swelling will usually accompany the numbness, indicating the possibility of a break.


Pay close attention to which shoes you wear when the numbness occurs. While shoes may feel comfortable, they can be cutting off an important blood supply that doesn't cause any discomfort other than the numbness. Shoes that are tied too tightly can be loosened to allow the blood to flow.

In many cases, the shoes are too narrow and squeeze just above the toes where the nerves sit higher on the foot. Feet swelling while walking also indicate that shoes are too tight. Conversely, shoes that are too loose could cause the toes to curl when walking which could also lead to numbness.

Peripheral neuropathy

When blood stops flowing to the toes, that can be a sign of peripheral neuropathy. Many people who have smoked for years and are over the age of 40 suffer from this condition that causes their toes to go numb. Numbness also is a symptom of progressive diabetes and can lead to loss of feeling and blood flow. The small veins that extend to the toes become constricted and the toes begin to turn colour in addition to being numb. Left untreated, peripheral neuropathy can lead to amputation.

Multiple sclerosis

For some, multiple sclerosis (MS) begins slowly. One of the first symptoms of the disease is a tingling sensation in the toes. The toes go numb because of the weakened condition of the nerves and the inability of the nerves to carry messages through the body. Numbness in the extremities like toes and fingers often are the first noticeable effects of the disease. When coupled with loss of balance and blurred vision, patients should be checked for MS.

Raynaud's disease

Raynaud's disease is a circulatory condition that causes the extremities like toes and fingers to tingle and go numb when exposed to the cold or when the patient is under stress. The response to cold and stress causes the blood vessels to constrict and send a tingling sensation through the toes. Often, the toes feel like they fell asleep. Experts at the Mayo Clinic say that Raynaud's disease is mostly found in people living in colder climates and is more of a nuisance than a serious disorder.