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1483 Views 3 Replies Latest reply: Mar 13, 2013 6:37 AM by lenzlaw
ydiez Pro 161 posts since
Nov 7, 2011
Currently Being Moderated

Mar 12, 2013 3:37 AM

feet going numb

Hi all,


Lately I have been experiencing a "new" problem and I wonder if someone can give me some advice.


I am an "experienced" runner (used to be a casual runner but lately have been running 30-40 miles/week for the last year and a half). My problem is that my feet, in some very speciffic situations, tend to fell numb and finally "fall asleep" (pins and needles sensation).


This used to happen to me when I began running because of shoes being tied too tight leading to poor blood circulation, but in this case my shoes are very loosely tied. Additionally, this sensation only happens when I am running at my top speed for a while:


So the sensation does appear: 1) In races 2) in long speedwork series (at least four miles)


But it does not appear 1) while training at "cruise" speed, even for long runs (of 13 miles) 2) for short speedwork series (of 1-2 miles), even if I am running as fast as I can.


If I stop and walk or just reduce my speed drastically, the sensation disapears in a few minutes, but it is very uncomfortable and I cannot run through it (yes, I have tried and no, it was probably not a smart thing to do).   


Possible causes, well, I do have new shoes (asics gel kayano 18) but I experienced the same thing with my old pair (asics gel pulse 3). I also changed my running tights (but do not believe they are causing me circulation problems). I am not aware of having changed anything else. Is there anything apart from poor blod circulation that could cause this?


Thanks for your help.

Current PB:

5k: 19:53 (December 31st 2014)

10k : 42:30 (March 9th 2014)

Half Marathon: 1:32:40 (February 1st 2015)

Marathon: 3:33:31 (March 15th 2015)

Completed my first marathon! Feeling like getting some more!

  • JamesJohnsonLMT Legend 1,291 posts since
    Aug 23, 2009
    Currently Being Moderated
    1. Mar 12, 2013 10:47 AM (in response to ydiez)
    feet going numb

    I am a little worried about the circulation issue, and it's worth checking into, but I'm more worried about the transition from "casual" running to 30-40 miles a week. That seems like a pretty radical shift within a year and a half or so.


    If you had been averaging 20+ for a few years, and were training to do well in full marathons, there might be an excuse for that kind of mileage, but I think there can be other explanations than circulation for foot numbness in light of the numbers you are putting up. If I can BQ on 20 miles a week, you should not need that kind of punishment to do well in the Half. Individual results vary, of course, but it sounds like you are mixing in enough quality speedwork that raw miles may be a waste of wear and tear. That may be the only real problem, but there is more important stuff to know.


    Tissue can build up around nerves in your feet in response to all that repetitive motion. Since there is more general swelling in the feet as the miles pile up, the two symptoms - one semi-permanent, and the other quite temporary - can combine to produce the problem you have.


    Meanwhile, test the circulation in your feet with a simple test after/during a good long run, when these symptoms set in:


         -Pull over to the nearest lighted spot where you can sit and pull your shoes off.

         -Remove shoes/socks from at least one foot.

         -Press/squeeze fingers into various fleshy parts of your foot and release.

         -You should see a little whiteness in the foot where you pressed, followed by pink as blood returns.


    If this "pinking" occurs in the skin, it is a sign that there is plenty of blood flowing into your feet. It would stay white longer if your circulation is cut off.


    Ruling out a general circulatory problem, there can be tissue build-up or swelling in other places that can contribute to foot numbness, all of which will be made worse by too-aggressive a running program, which is what I expect in your case. Depending somewhat on how efficient a runner you are, your Piriformis muscle (deep in the butt) can swell up and trap the Sciatic nerve, leading to tingly sensations and numbness in the lower extremities. Sitting on a wallet can negatively affect this on one side, and the way, or how much you sit in general, can affect both sides.


    Excess pronation, or other faults in anatomy or form, can produce excess motion in the Piriformis muscle as it rotates the leg with every stride to push the foot outward. A treadmill analysis can pinpoint this problem, as well as skillful reading of the wear pattern on the soles of your shoes. Runners can pronate excessively to supply stability if there is a problem with hip structure or function, and it is also likely if the bones of your feet are arranged or bound by ligaments in such a way that pronation helps. In this case, many runners will suffer overuse injuries as a result.


    One problem that frequently pops up on this forum, and which I've experienced personally, is tingling, numbness, and eventual sharp pain in the foot from a perineural fibrosis, or "Morton's Neuroma," that afflicts many high-mileage runners. This thickening of tissue around common digital nerves can produce the effect even without swelling. This used to ruin my marathons until I found ways to compensate for the structure of my left foot, which has a shorter 1st metatarsal than the one on the right. I still can have issues when walking barefoot, so it can be a permanent issue for that kind of foot if no steps are taken to minimize excess motion.


    In general, a mature runner can expect gradual adaptations over time that make running easier as the years go by. When running gets harder, due to pain or symptoms like yours, you are pushing too hard for those adaptations to keep up. You then run the risk of compensation injuries and maladaptations that are there to control damage and limit your activity. Always run within the ability of your body to adapt in a healthy way. Just as with success, this healthy adaptation, and the need for it, varies considerably between individuals. It's about what makes sense for you, and nobody else.


    First thing you should do is have your gait analyzed by a PT or somebody who knows what to look for. If the style that was OK for casual running has flaws, overuse injuries can be expected in a high-mileage program.


    When dealing with medical professionals, an important thing to keep in mind, is that there is one set of conditions, outcomes, and rules that apply to the sedentary population, and another for athletes, especially ones training as hard as you are. Some sports-med docs are very familiar with the training, results, injuries, and recovery of elite athletes, but that knowledge does not always translate to weekend warriors like us. We can expect an entirely different relationship between those factors. Don't let anyone superimpose the expectations of Ryan Hall or Dean Karnazes on yourself, because anyone can't do what they do. We are all built differently.


    Find out how your body is operating, and make sure your goals, training, and recovery strategy apply to your unique situation. If I were you, for a long-term plan, I'd start with fewer total miles, keeping the quality up as usual, at least for the near future.

  • lenzlaw Community Moderator 10,541 posts since
    Jan 18, 2008
    Currently Being Moderated
    3. Mar 13, 2013 6:37 AM (in response to ydiez)
    Re: feet going numb

    James gave you a pretty comprehensive analysis, but without having all the added information.  I think the shoes are a definite consideration.  The Pulse is considered a neutral shoe, the Kayano is a (for lack of a better word) substantial stability shoe, perhaps giving too much control in combination with the inserts.  Maybe try them without the inserts?




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