Runner’s Feet


If you thought blisters and blackened toenails were the worst things that can happen to your feet from running…well wait …there’s more!

Numb or Burning Feet

Many of my runners have complained to me about numb feet or a burning sensation in their feet whilst  running and afterwards…so here are some reasons for numb feet and toes

Transient Parasthesia

This condition is a nerve compression that comes from a build up in fluids in your foot that can be brought on by extended wear and tear of your feet, as in running. Your feet may swell, this causes the blood flow to decrease and in turn the nerves in your feet become compressed...the result is numbness and tingling in toes and feet. Check to make sure your shoes are not too small or the laces are not tied too tightly.

Also if this condition occurs, make sure you get fitted for well cushioned running shoes

Peripheral Neuropathy

This condition is not so much felt by numbness but something much more annoying and painful...burning. It may start as tingling in the toes, but then it extends to burning in the feet and can even spreads up the legs.

Once again the burning and pain come from nerve compressions, but there are also many other causes. Lack of circulation from diseases like diabetes, liver or kidney diseases, underactive thyroid, or bacterial or viral diseases or even vitamin deficiencies.

As you can see it could be nearly anything! So for these reasons you really need a diagnosis first before starting any course of treatment.

Often it could be just inflammation as well, so anti inflammatory, ice packs and pain killers could be your first form of treatment, to see if it works first. Once again check the shoes you are wearing are fitted correctly.

If the burning is caused by hot sweaty feet make sure your shoes and socks are made of breathable fabrics and that you regularly wash your shoes. Change and wash your socks after each run. Wear proper running socks and only use them for your running activities. If your feet sweat excessively, try using a foot powder to keep them dry.

Raynaud's Syndrome

This syndrome is typified by numbness to the toes and fingers, caused by poor blood circulation. 5-10% of the population suffer from Raynauds syndrome and cold weather and stress brings on the disease. The fingers and toes of sufferers turn white form lack of circulations, and then they turn blue, and usually go numb.

Prevention is as simple as keeping yourself warm in cold weather, especially your extremities. This is hard with runners who tend to wear very little when running even in cold weather. However, the rest of your body may be warm but the blood isn’t pushing through to very ends, so keep the singlet and shorts on but wear gloves and woollen socks.

In the Las Vegas marathon, I found some lightweight running gloves at the expo and wore them the whole way, even though I was only wearing a t shirt and shorts, its amazing how warm they kept my usually icy fingers, but never made the rest of my body too hot.

With the numb, blue toes prevention again is the best, so don’t let your feet get cold. Once they are cold it is very hard for them to warm up and regain circulation. Therefore, don’t walk around barefoot on cold surfaces, especially floor tiles. Keep socks and slippers on, try not to let your feet get wet when running.

If you often run in wet and rain, try trail shoes with Gortex uppers, I have a pair that I wear when its wet or in the bush and I swear, I have run in absolute downpours in them and my socks continue to stay dry, and my feet warm.

Massage is also good for warmth and circulation; try massaging deep heat into your feet and then putting your socks back on.



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