Q+A: Why does my foot get pins and needles?

Our experts answer real-life questions


Posted: 9 September 2000
by Simon Costain

Q Can you explain why I seem to suffer from pins and needles in my left foot when I’m out for run? It can strike at any time, and if I continue running my whole foot goes numb. But as soon as I stop, the problem disappears.

A Pins and needles, or parasthesia, has a variety of causes. The most obvious cause is having your shoes laced too tightly – or wearing a sock liner or even sock that’s too snug – as this can restrict the circulation in your feet. Along similar lines, you might find that you’re one of those people with naturally poor circulation – so extremities such as your feet can suffer.

Parasthesia can also be caused by a ‘trapped’ or restricted nerve in the foot. In turn this might be connected to a minor biomechanical imbalance in the foot, in which case you’ll need it fully assessed by a qualified podiatrist.

There are some first-aid measures you can try before seeing a podiatrist. Make sure that you stretch your calf muscles diligently with your knee both flexed and fully extended while leaning against a wall. Also try standing on the edge of the stairs and raising and lowering your heels slowly to enhance the stretch. You may also find that hamstring stretches help ease the problem.

Simon Costain, podiatric consultant


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I also suffered from this - every time I hit about 6km my right foot would start to go completely numb until I couldn't feel it any more. I went and saw a physio and along with the calf stretches already mentioned I was shown a stretch similar to a hamstring stretch (i.e touching your toes but sat down with your feet against the wall) but you slouch your back and put your chin on your chest. Really push down (yes it hurts!!) and do four reps and hold for a count of seven. After a couple of nights I was pins and needles free!!
Posted: 08/10/2002 at 14:01

Tim, the toes on my right foot go numb after about 2 miles, someone mentioned tight laces so I have tried tying them not so tight, a lot better but the pins and needles/numbness came back on at about 6 mile, as soon as I stop they go, so I will try the stretch you suggest and hope it works for me.......thanks
Gaz.......
Posted: 08/10/2002 at 15:43

I get pins and needles/numbness under the front part of both feet on the stair master in the gym(don't use it now)and when I run in particular shoes (?insufficient cushioning)Only solution- relegate them to shopping. No problems with NB 854's so far.
Posted: 08/10/2002 at 16:23

I used to suffer exactly the same. I rarely do now even though I have increased mileages to 8 (well past the 2-4 mile mark where it used to kick in). I have controlled it with changing the lacing on my shoe to give my instep more room to move.

However, be careful. Velociraptor advised me to be aware it can be a symptom of a back problem.
Posted: 08/10/2002 at 16:31

Thanks for advice keswick, I do suffer sometimes from lower back problems, right side, will have to watch this and get it checked out if it persists
cheers.....
Gaz......
Posted: 08/10/2002 at 16:36

I did the old loosen the shoe lace bit aswell! As far as getting numb feet on stair masters, I get that too (and on cross trainer). I'm not sure if this is correct but I have a dim and distant memory that my physio told me there are different "kinds" of numbness and that lots of people suffer the "stair master syndrome"! But apparently its not connected to the running pins and needles. Its all double dutch to me - I think I'll take the shopping tip!
Posted: 08/10/2002 at 16:42

There is good advice on lacing techniques in the web site - if memory serves it is in the shoe selection section.

Also, how many miles do you have on your shoes? You may find that the cushioning under the ball of your foot has gone and it's time for a new pair?
Posted: 08/10/2002 at 18:20

I used to get terrible pins and needles in my feet. I went to an acupuncturist, but it just made things worse.
(sorry, couldn't resist it!)

Chris.
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Posted: 08/10/2002 at 20:51

I suffer this too, in my left foot after about 3 miles, it continues until 7 or 8 and then goes away. In my case, yes it is a symptom of back problems, I have a numb patch also in my left thigh which the orthopaedist said would get better after about 6 months, but 2 years later I still have it.
Posted: 08/10/2002 at 21:58

This is bizzare !! I thought I was the only one who suffered this. I tried everything, at least 3 different physios, an osteopath but no one could cure it long-term. Now it seems to have dissapeared of its own accord. My numbness used to hit on exactly the hour mark and then gradually dissapear over the following 10 minutes. Sometimes it used to be the whole lower left leg (never the right side). Its the funniest feeling, running on "one leg" for 10 minutes. The laces trick is an interesting one and the stretches sound useful.
Posted: 09/10/2002 at 11:18

This used to happen to me - especially when racing (I never used to stretch before or after running - I just went straight out and ran). I now have a good stretch before any run as a result my times have improved and I never get the pins and neddles or numb feet!
Posted: 09/10/2002 at 13:49

sorry needles not neddles
Posted: 09/10/2002 at 13:49

2 weeks ago I put in shock absorber insoles in my shoes and ever since I have been getting pins and needles/numbness plus sore shins and calfs, took them out today and ran 9 miles, no numbness or needles and no shin and calf pain so I am leaving them out, £16.99 wasted I think, I will see what happens over next few weeks.
Gaz........
Posted: 09/10/2002 at 14:28

There's nothing new under the sun......! I think I've had just about every runner's problem in my more than 40 years of running, most have disappeared or been cured over time, but the pins and needles are persistent little blighters.
Posted: 09/10/2002 at 19:01

I have the same problem. After about 5 miles / 40 mins my left foot gets pins and needles and then goes completely numb. I've tried loosening my laces, but now get a large blister on the arch side of the sole of the same foot. It's really frustrating, as the pins and needles feel odd, and the blisters prevent me from training as much as I'd like. I'll try these stretches and see I guess.
Posted: 10/10/2002 at 13:15

I have tried everything for pins and needles in my left foot, which eventually goes dead. I have had orthoses given to me by a podiatrist, but they gave me other pains in my knnes.. Very interestingly ,I am one of those people who stretches at the end of a run, I will definately start at the beginning of a run |I hope it helps Thanks, glad to know I am not alone!!
Posted: 15/10/2002 at 13:36

I got some new shoes and was suffering from numb toes on my right foot. I re-laced my shoes looser it improved slightly. I then removed the insoles and replaced them with an older pair therefore giving more space in the toe of my shoe, this also improved it slightly but I still got a numb toe after about 2K. I then realised that my socks were too tight and I had pulled them up too far therefore putting pressure on my toe. I haven't suffered since - I noticed it was worse with thick cushioned socks.
Posted: 15/10/2002 at 14:18

I get pins and needles during my long runs but not in my feet...it's in the fingers on my left hand, particularly my little finger!! I figure it's from keeping my elbow bent the whole time. The right hand is fine but that's carrying the water bottle so maybe that helps. Anyone else have this problem or is it just me??
Posted: 15/10/2002 at 14:29

Ok Folks try this one. My old shoes (NB 712 and 636) no problem. Any new shoes (NB 854, 3000, Suconey can't remember the number, nike, asics...) with or without special indsoles and left foot numb and painful after 20 minutes. PS I strecht before running
The problem is the old sgoes are falling apart and the gurus say to change them every 6 months and these are pushing 24.
My GP said to just keep wearing the new shoes that hurt the least until they mold to my foot.
I'll let you know if it works.
Posted: 13/11/2002 at 21:57

I thought i was all alone with this problem!! I must thank you all for your tips, especially the one linked to lower back pain, which has been a big problem in recent years, I have very recently taken up pilates to help stregthen my back so with a little gentle back exercise this problem could soon be rectified I hope!!!

gary
Posted: 27/04/2004 at 01:12

I have spent 2 years trying to find out why I get pins and needles in my feet and then loose all feeling at about 6k (horrid!) At last I've found fellow sufferers! I've tried the shoe lace trick - no good, spent a fortune on socks and trainers - no good (back to the old faithfuls). I shall now try the stretching mentioned in one of the first messages here. Also interesting that I, like others, have a lower back problem, maybe a reflexologer might help!? If anyone has found out any more since this thread was started please let us know.

Posted: 02/12/2004 at 10:07

I can't believe I've found fellow sufferers too! I have been strugging with this for years and not found any solution. I invested in better trainers (they helped a bit - I can run further before the pins and needles kick in), new socks (some a bit better, some a bit worse), and stretches. The calf stretches seem to help the most but I have to do them for quite a while before setting out. I have lower back pain and have been putting off going to see a physio because of the cost.... It seems that that might be the common link..... Has anyone out there successfully had any medical treatment that has cured it?
Posted: 24/02/2005 at 13:54

I'm afraid to say that I have given up on the stretches! I tried for a few weeks but they really didn't seem to make much difference at all. I have also found that I don't have the problem with my feet everytime I run, I have noticed that if my ankles feel tight, no matter how much stretching I do, I will suffer. I think it's time my flexible friend took me to the physio!
Posted: 24/02/2005 at 17:09

I got it in my hand today whilst shopping at lunch, my whole left hand went white and I couldn't feel it at all....wasn't even running.
Posted: 24/02/2005 at 17:26

I too have not only pins and needles (mainly in right foot) but this is accompanied by an excrutiating burning pain. It started when I brought new running shoes not sure if it is new shoes coupled with the fact I have a very high arch and bump on top of foot (bone spur I think). I have tried loosening my laces with no success. Someone mentioned to me that it could be friction - Who knows but very painful, although on the plus side it does make me run faster so that I can get home quicker to get the shoes off!!
Posted: 28/02/2005 at 21:44

I also get pins and needles in my right foot after about half an hour of running,
I only started running In april in prep to do the Windsor Half (burst of enthusiasm after watching the London Marathon) I have seen a podiatrist who stuck some supports onto the insoles of my trainers – as I when I run (and walk) I land on the out side of my right foot (oversupinating?), do my stretches and even bought running socks but I still get the problem too.
I have come to the conclusion that running surfaces affect this – I didn’t have a problem when I run in Windsor great Park (7 pain free miles – OK not non stop and v slow) but when I done a 5K route round canary wharf it was a nightmare which took me a hobbling cursing 50minutes.
Windsor has a nice asphalt surface and canary wharf is a concrete/marble nightmare.
Anyway I hope that is the reason as I am dreading being in the half marathon and crawling over the finish line 4 hours after everyone else with a completly numb leg.

Posted: 25/08/2005 at 15:24

i use to get the pins and needles when i first started running going up hill was worse i did weigh 15 stone at the time its dissapeard now.
Posted: 25/08/2005 at 15:42

Noticed some new posts on this and although I've not come to any definite conculsion, I haven't had the pins and needles for a while. The link seems to be when I overdo it usually by trying to push my speed too much (if I slow when it starts to come on, it usually goes) or not resting.

When I got it quite badly I went to the doctors to have my back checked as didn't want to be doing any damage, and he said it was fine and suggested resting for a month, which seemed like a long time, but I did manage two weeks and it has eased.
Posted: 26/08/2005 at 11:10

I recently started experiencing 'hotpots' on my right foot and also pin & needles. Thought it was just me. The new shoes were Asics Cumulus. Any distance over 6 miles or so seemed to hurt. Bodyglide helped extend this but not by much. I have now been told that this particular shoe has a gel plate in the forefoot and that my right foot is slightly larger than my left, therefore, the ball of my foot sits astride the edge of the gel pad, hence the friction. I tei the laces very tight to prevent friction, hence the pins & needles. I bought 2 pairs of these shoes as they felt so good on the treadmill (for 5 mins) and now use them for short training runs and races up to 10k. Any longer I go back to my bargain bucket Asics (no name or number but very comfy). Hope this helps.
Posted: 10/05/2006 at 16:49

that's got to be worth a try! Thanks!
Posted: 12/05/2006 at 16:28

I suffer from Pins and Needles and numbness in the feet when running also. My socks are not tight, My trainners are lose but I am over weight by quite a lot for my height and I push myself quite hard trying just to keep up with the others. Since i have put on a bit of weight it has got worse so I am going to cut down on what I eat.

My wife also found this on a web site so I am going to get checked when I get the time for Iron and Magnesium deficiency test.

Here is the link:
http://www.serpentine.org.uk/advice/coach/fh35.php

This is what it says on the site.

Have you suffered recently from pins-and-needles in the feet and hands, or numbness in the feet? If so, you should have a comprehensive blood test for iron and magnesium deficiency.

Hope this may help.
Posted: 17/05/2006 at 11:59

Hello,

 I get pins and needles in my left foot after running for about half and hour, eventually my whole foot goes numb, and I get a burning pain in my calf. I've recently been referred to an orthopaedic surgeon, who thinks that it might be a condition called exercise induced compartment syndrone.

There are many descriptions of this condition on the net, if you think you've got it then badger your GP for an orthapaedic referral, and if you can't bear the waiting times, BUPA charge £110 for an orthapaedic referrral.

Unfortunately, the only way that this condition can be managed is by surgery, post surgical outcomes are however excellent.


Posted: 26/08/2007 at 16:41

I suffer with numbness in both feet starting at my toes and spreading into the balls of my feet, but this is only on the cross trainer and not when out running. Am i ok to wear my running shoes on the cross trainer or should i be wearing different footwear.  I have tried having the laces very loose but it seems to make no difference.
Posted: 02/04/2008 at 14:50

I have started to get pins n needles in my left calf and foot recently.

I have good trainers and have had no problems with pins n needles until last week. I have tried slackening the laces on my trainers to see if it helps, which is doesn't. 


Posted: 02/06/2008 at 09:31

I cant believe how common thi is. I thought that I was the only one. The only problem that I have that differs from those aleady written in here is that since I have seriously started upping my training I have had pins and needles costantly. I can rarely feel my left foot and it is now spreading up my left leg also. I work in an office and always wore 5 inch heels, but in the last tree weeks I havehad to wear black 'sensible shoes' as it feels like I am walking on the outside of my feet and that my ankles will give way if I continue wearing them. If anyone can help me, please do. I am at the end of my tether with the sensible shoes. let alone the running.
Posted: 14/05/2009 at 21:36

and sorry aout the spelling. I always forget to read through what I have written before I send it
Posted: 14/05/2009 at 21:38

Ultra...an interesting comment you made about the numbness in your left thigh. I too experience this and also pins and needles. I've never really given much thought to finding out what is causing the problem...I feel it is all part and parcel or runnning. I should add that it doesn't impact on my running at all.

Many years ago I had some problems with my sciatic nerve and wonder if this is still part of my current problem. I was also told that it is caused by the very thin nerves that run across the hip bone and the friction of running causes these to wear thin thus the numbness in the thigh.

I'm about your age so after 20+ years of running plus many previous years on playing squash I'm not going to let this interfere with things now. 


Posted: 15/05/2009 at 12:08

Another sufferer here people:

Pins and needles after about 3 miles, back pain after about 2-3 miles, discomfort for 24 hours after.I have tight calves, hamstrings.... you name it!

Have tried loose trainers and socks - nothing, so the next steps for me are hammy stretches against the wall as suggested in this feed, plus some yoga.

 If this fails,  GP/Physio/Chiro..........


Posted: 03/11/2009 at 12:49

 Hi there,

I have been a runner for ten years plus and recently over the last years experienced pins and needles in right foot, which starts as a tightness in the calf muscle and then transpires into pins and needles in the right leg so bad that it feels as if I am running on one leg! It is really uncomfortable and seriously effects your running! It starts at about 6K, generally on hill sprints like the ones I did on Tuesday, but sometimes and quite often it will happen on flat surfaces from 6K onwards...tried insoles and calf stretches. Calf stretches seem the best at the mo, although I am still getting them.

Any tips or advice will be useful.

Thanks,

Fellow runner


Posted: 03/12/2009 at 16:46

I have this problem and it is nice to find other fellow sufferers are out there as I, like many others, thought I was 'abnormal'!

I rarely stretch before my runs and will try this now.

 I have recently seen a chiropractor and he said I have bad circulation and to up my vitamin E intake. I have also bought a High Tech Health Circulation Booster....strange sensation but seems to ease it.

 Definitely going to try the stretching and looser socks.

 Thanks for the tips. Happy running.

 *Run Forrest Run* 


Posted: 24/08/2010 at 22:21

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