A lack of sensation in your foot could signal that something is affecting your nerves. Usually, the culprit of foot numbness is nerve compression from poor posture or tight shoes. Getting rid of the cause should make your foot numbness go away. But in other cases, the culprit is nerve injury or damage. Many disorders can have paresthesia (the medical term for “numbness”) as a symptom. So, if you have an underlying medical condition, you need to speak to a doctor.
Learning more about foot numbness can help you prevent it — and decide when to seek medical help.
What Is Foot Numbness?
The term “foot numbness” may mean different things to different people. Numbness in the foot could refer to the following:
- An abnormal feeling
- Loss of sensitivity
- A pins-and-needles sensation
In general, foot numbness means an abnormal sensation in the foot. The medical term for distorted sensation is paresthesia.
To understand paresthesia, you need to know a little about how the nervous system works. It’s made up of the peripheral nerves and the central nervous system (spinal cord and brain). The peripheral nerves in the arms and feet need to communicate with the sensory cortex. This is the region of the brain that processes sensory information. That’s how you can feel temperature, touch, and pain.
Numbness happens when there’s a problem along the sensory pathway between the foot and the sensory cortex. The cause can be a compressed or injured nerve.
Foot numbness is very common, affecting 7 percent of adults in the United States. That’s about 16 million people. Many of them have diabetes, which is the leading cause of foot numbness. But there are many other causes of paresthesia.
Causes of Foot Numbness
Some types of paresthesia appear suddenly. Others are progressive — they get worse with time. Foot numbness can be temporary, lasting as little as a few minutes, like when your “foot is asleep.” Or foot numbness can be permanent. This can happen when the cause of nerve damage is a chronic medical condition.
Foot numbness can be dangerous. It might prevent you from feeling when your feet touch the ground. This can make you lose balance and coordination. Walking can become difficult, and driving impossible. Also, you may not feel when you step on a sharp object, and get foot sores.
Here are some of the most common causes of foot numbness:
- Bad posture. In the simplest case, your foot is “asleep” because you’ve sat in an awkward position for too long. Your foot feels numb because your posture has caused nerve compression. This has interrupted the communication between your peripheral nerves and your sensory cortex.
- Tight shoes. Wearing poor-fitting shoes may interrupt the communication path in your nervous system. If your peripheral nerves become compressed, you may feel pins and needles in your feet. Or you may feel numbness in the top of your foot. That usually happens when your shoelaces are too tight.
- Another result of wearing tight shoes, a bunion is a painful deformity of the joint of your big toe. Not everyone who wears shoes with tight toes gets bunions. Some foot types are more prone to bunions than others. Bunions often cause pain and numbness.
- An injury along the peripheral nerve pathway can cause foot numbness. That’s because nerve pressure or damage can lead to loss of sensation.
Foot numbness alone is not usually a concern, especially if it doesn’t last long. But if you experience other symptoms, you need to see a doctor immediately:
- Sudden numbness in the foot for no obvious cause (such as poor posture)
- Difficulty breathing
- Sudden weakness
- Numbness in the foot as well as in the leg
- Numbness that spreads to other parts of the body
Your doctor will examine you to determine which part of your body has suffered nerve damage. They’ll then identify the cause of foot numbness.
There are many conditions that have foot numbness as a symptom. The following list includes some of the most common:
- About one in two people with diabetes has nerve damage (neuropathy). One of the hallmark symptoms of diabetic neuropathy is foot numbness.
- Multiple sclerosis. Numbness in the limbs is a typical symptom of multiple sclerosis. Foot numbness is not usually a cause of disability for people with multiple sclerosis. But in some cases the numbness may be so severe that people can’t feel the floor, so they can’t walk.
- Pinched nerve. If a nerve has suffered damage or injury from stretching, compression, or constriction (“pinching”), you may get foot numbness. Other symptoms include pain, tingling, and a pins-and-needles sensation.
- Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy. This progressive disease is also called chronic relapsing polyneuropathy. It is more common in teenagers and in men, but it can affect anyone. Its symptoms include tingling or numbness in the toes. Other symptoms are weakness of the limbs, loss of reflexes, and fatigue.
- Peripheral neuropathy. This condition affects the peripheral nerves. Damaged foot nerves can cause foot numbness. This may develop over days, weeks, or years.
- Guillain-Barré syndrome. It’s a rare disorder that affects about one in 100,000 people each year. The symptoms include foot numbness and pain, as well as weakness and loss of reflexes.
- More than 80 percent of people with fibromyalgia have paresthesia. Numbness in people with fibromyalgia is not usually limited to the foot. It affects other parts of the body, too.
- Posterior tarsal tunnel syndrome. This condition is common in people with fibromyalgia, affecting about 18 percent of them. Its symptoms include pain, burning sensation, numbness, tingling, and tightness in the sole of the foot.
- Repetitive motion disorder. Performing certain repetitive activities daily can lead to repetitive strain injury. While it’s more common in the hands, it can also happen in the feet. It causes foot pain, numbness, tingling, swelling, and redness. Left untreated, this disorder can lead to neuroma formation.
- Morton’s neuroma. A neuroma is a kind of permanent nerve damage. Morton’s neuroma happens when the nerve tissue between the third and fourth toes thickens. It does so because of compression and irritation. The symptoms of Morton’s neuroma begin gradually. They include numbness, tingling, and pain in the toes and foot.
Treatment of Foot Numbness
The choice of treatment for foot numbness depends on its cause. It’s wise to see a doctor if you get foot numbness from other causes than poor posture or tight shoes. If you also have pain, weakness, or other symptoms, speak to a doctor.
How to Treat Foot Numbness from Poor Posture, Wrong Footwear, or Bunions
- Waking up a “sleepy” foot. If you’ve slept in an awkward position, or sat with your legs crossed for too long, your foot may go “numb.” To make the numbness go away, change your position and try to walk. You’ll release the compression of the nerve. This restores the normal communication between your peripheral nerves and the brain. At first, the “pins and needles” sensation may get worse. The blood circulation and nerve function will then go back to normal. As they do, your foot will “wake up.”
- Getting rid of foot numbness from tight shoes. If your shoes don’t fit well, or your laces are too tight, you may get foot numbness or pins-and-needles pain. The solution is obvious: change your shoes. Avoid those with narrow toes. They can cause not only foot numbness but also bunions, arch pain, and other foot problems.
- Eliminating foot numbness from bunions. If you have a bunion (a hard lump by your big toe) you may feel pain or numbness when you walk or run. To ease the symptoms, wear comfortable footwear that fits well. Also, use bunion pads to prevent the shoe from rubbing on the bunion. Your doctor may also recommend shoe inserts. These re-position the foot and provide padding. Ice packs, warm soaks, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may help relieve the pain. If these treatments don’t work, your doctor may recommend bunion surgery.
How to Treat Foot Numbness from Other Causes
There are many medical conditions that can cause paresthesia. So, it’s wise to seek medical help to pinpoint the cause. To be able to make a diagnosis, your doctor will need to examine you and your medical history. Referral to a specialist may be necessary.
Once your doctor identifies the underlying cause of paresthesia, they’ll work on addressing it. You may need to make changes to your diet and stop drinking alcohol. Or, you may need to take prescription drugs.
Medication for neuropathic pain includes antidepressants, antiepileptic medications, antispasmodics, and analgesics. You may also need to work with a specialist, like an occupational therapist, physiotherapist, or podiatrist.
Follow your doctor’s advice and take the medications they give you.
Prevention of Foot Numbness with Enhanced Sensory Stimulation
To prevent foot numbness, you can do the following:
- Wear well-fitting shoes — to avoid nerve compression and bunions
- Avoid sitting cross-legged or in awkward positions too long — to avoid nerve compression and “sleepy foot”
- Walk barefoot when it’s safe to do so — to keep the foot’s peripheral nerves stimulated
- When you can’t walk barefoot, use textured insoles in your shoes — to ensure your feet receive proper sensory stimulation
Why Foot Sensory Stimulation Matters
Plantar foot sensory stimulation benefits anyone. But it’s especially useful for people who have diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, or another chronic neuropathy. Chronic foot numbness may lead to balance impairment. Reduced foot sensitivity poses an increased risk of falls and injuries.
Fortunately, there is a way to prevent loss of sensitivity: enhanced stimulation of the foot using textured insoles. Naboso Technology insoles are specifically designed to improve dynamic stability and mobility. This technology stimulates the foot’s peripheral nerves.
The foot’s nerves are sensitive to stimuli like vibration, pressure, texture, and touch. They send this information to the central nervous system, which uses it to control your balance and movement. But wearing shoes blocks some of the stimulation the foot’s nerves receive. This can affect your balance and coordination.
Textured insoles in your shoes can mimic the sensory stimulation of walking barefoot. The foot’s sensory nerves receive the stimulation they need to perform optimally.
Benefits of Naboso Technology
Naboso Technology has built upon scientific research to create these insoles. They are ideal for people with decreased foot sensitivity.
Using Naboso Technology insoles has many benefits. The main one is increased plantar foot sensory stimulation. This boosts the foot’s sensitivity and promotes nerve function. Also, using textured insoles may improve your posture and balance. This reduces your risk of falls.
Using textured insoles in your shoes is not the only way to enhance plantar foot stimulation. Naboso Technology has also integrated its textured material into training mats. Exercising barefoot on a Naboso Technology mat increases joint position sense.
Naboso Technology products promote the connection between the foot and the brain. Enhanced sensory stimulation helps you strengthen your foot and prevent foot injuries.
Numbness of the foot, or paresthesia, is an abnormal sensation in the foot. It happens when a nerve suffers injury, compression, or constriction. The causes of foot numbness range from poor posture to chronic diseases. The treatment for foot numbness depends on its cause. But prevention is always better than treatment. Preventing foot numbness involves keeping the foot’s nerves healthy.
Using Naboso Technology insoles is an effective way to enhance the sensory stimulation of the foot. The added benefits are better balance, coordination, and mobility. Do you need help choosing your Naboso Technology insoles? Click here to learn about the graduated stimulation of our insoles.