No one likes getting the feeling of their feet going numb, especially if it happens on a regular basis. If you find yourself in that predicament, this article is for you. We’ll discuss toe numbness and why it happens.
Although we’ll mostly focus on how shoes can cause toe numbness, we’ll also look into some other possible reasons.
While you might think that getting a new pair of shoes will help, it could be something different entirely, and we’re here to help you find that out!
Why Do Toes Go Numb?
Before we start discussing how to stop your toes from feeling numb, let’s discuss why they get numb in the first place.
Toes can go numb for three major reasons: low blood circulation, nerve damage, and muscle tightness.
Low Blood Circulation
Probably the most common reason that toes go numb is due to low blood circulation. This is especially true for individuals who have diabetes. It’s important to be aware of poor circulation so that you can address and don’t deal with nerve damage.
An example of nerve damage is Morton’s neuroma which is caused by the tissue around your nerve near the toes of your feet thickening. Because of the added pressure, you can feel numbness in your toes. Foot drop is another potential nerve condition.
Tightness in your calf muscles might make you especially prone to numbness in your toes. Heel problems typically occur when you use your calf muscles too much and may lead to pain in your toes as well as your heels.
How Do Shoes Contribute to Poor Circulation?
As we noted above, if you’re dealing with numb toes, then it’s most likely due to poor circulation rather than nerve damage. Your shoes can contribute to poor circulation if they are too tight and don’t allow blood to flow.
It’s especially important to get blood to your extremities like your hands and feet so that you ensure that your tissues in those areas are in good health. You will experience the best circulation when your toes naturally splay.
It’s not a huge issue to wear tighter shoes every so often (for example, maybe you like to wear heels or satin shoes to weddings that you go to once or twice a year), but it could cause serious issues if you do it on a regular basis.
How Can I Prevent Numb Toes?
To prevent numb toes, you’ll have to do something different than you have been doing, and that likely mentions changing up something with your shoes. That might mean getting a new pair of shoes, or it could just be tying them differently.
You might need to try a couple different options to see what exactly is causing your toe numbness and what you can do about it. You also will want to ensure that you’re avoiding tight shoes (especially high heels) as much as possible.
Wear the Correct Size Shoes
No matter how much you want a pair of shoes, comfort should always come over fashion. If a cute pair of shoes isn’t in your size, then you shouldn’t purchase them because you need to wear the correct size shoes to avoid toe numbness.
And it could be that you always thought you were one size, but that’s not correct. So take the time to measure your feet at the store or at home and see what size you are. Remember to get the size needed for your slightly larger foot.
Also, don’t forget that your feet swell after standing for long periods of time, so if your job requires you to stand a lot, you might want to make sure that you go a half size up and have plenty of room in the toe box.
If you don’t account for your feet swelling and your shoes aren’t sized correctly, then they will be too small when your feet swell, which could be especially uncomfortable if you’re running or some other form of physical activity.
Make sure that when you buy shoes there is room at the front of the shoe in the toe box. Unfortunately, wide shoes do not always mean wide in the toe box. It could just be wide in the heel or middle of the shoe.
You’ll want to try any shoes on to see how the toe box feels. Altra is a good brand of running shoes if you need or want a wide toe box. New Balance also carries wide shoes as well that might suit your needs.
Finally, ideally you can try on shoes after being on your feet all day to see if they still fit. Instead of going shopping in the morning on Saturdays, try the afternoons or evenings. That will give you a better fit when purchasing shoes.
Lace Your Shoes The Right Way
Although it’s most likely that your numbness is because your shoes themselves are too tight, it could also be how you’ve laced them. One simple fix is to see if the laces are too tight. Give yourself a little bit more breathing room in the laces and see if that solves the problem.
If not, it could be that the laces are tight in the wrong places. For example, maybe you have a bunion. If everything is super tight in the toe box, it could cause numbness in your toes. Instead, specifically, lace your shoes for bunions by watching this video.
Watch Your Toe Position
Although it might not seem like a huge difference, even how your toes fit into your shoes could be causing numbness. For example, if your toes are pointed up or down, they are not lying flat, which can cause numbness.
Just make sure that your toes are lying flat when you put them in your shoe. If you can’t do that because your toes are extra long, for example, then you may need to purchase a longer pair of shoes.
Stretch Out Those Calves
As we mentioned above, although your toe numbness is probably caused by your shoes, it could be other issues if you’ve made sure that your shoes are the right size and your toes are lying flat and your toes are still numb.
In that case, it could be your calves. By increasing the flexibility in your calf muscles, you can improve blood flow to your feet and toes. A good way to do this is to use massage or a foam roller to loosen up the calves and improve circulation in your lower legs.
Deal With Issues Like Morton’s Neuroma
Finally, if you have an issue like Morton’s neuroma, then you’ll need to make sure that you address it. You can wear wide toe box shoes or metatarsal pads or orthotics (just make sure your insert can fit in the shoe), all of which can help if you have this condition. Acupuncture is another possible morton’s neuroma treatment.
In the end, the great news is that you can usually pretty easily fix numbness in your toes by just changing up your shoes or even how you tie them! Being aware that tight shoes can lead to poor circulation is an excellent first step in keeping your toes from going numb.
Lovett, Richard A. “Is the Key to Curing Plantar Fasciitis in Your Toes?” Runner’s World. Last modified March 3, 2010. https://www.runnersworld.com/advanced/a20823988/is-the-key-to-curing-plantar-fasciitis-in-your-toes/.
Michigan Medicine. “Toe, Foot, and Ankle Problems, Noninjury.” Last modified June 26, 2019. https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/footp.
WebMD. “Why Are My Toes Numb?” Accessed October 9, 2020. https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/numbness-toes#1.