How to Ease Numb Feet While Cycling

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It’s a beautiful day and you’re ready to get out and enjoy the great outdoors riding your bicycle with your friends. You’re taking part in your longest ride ever this weekend, but you feel ready for the challenge.

You’re prepared for everything except a recent problem with your feet going numb while you ride. It’s been coming on slowly and you hope it won’t prevent you from finishing the ride.

You’re wondering what’s going on and what causes it? 

And exactly what can you do about it? 

Let’s explore these questions and more as we learn how to ease the problem of feet going numb when you ride.

What Causes Numb Feet?

Numb feet can happen to every cyclist. It typically occurs due to several reasons such as prolonged rides, after injury, or following a recent equipment change such as a new bike, saddle, shoes, or pedals, and cleats.

Perhaps none of these apply to you, but you just want it to stop as it’s distracting from the pleasure of cycling.

It starts with a slight tingle that grows until part of or all of your foot or feet go completely numb.

There are two primary causes of numb feet when you ride, one is nerve compression and the second, restricted blood flow to your feet.

Blood flow to your muscles naturally increases during exercise. As effort intensifies, flow does too and our muscles, including those in our feet, swell. Yet our feet are constrained by shoes, reducing how much they can expand. The pressure builds up and pinches the arteries and nerves in our feet, causing numbness.

The two causes aren’t dissimilar at their root, as we can associate both of them with an increase or lack of blood flow to the foot. However, our nervous system is a wide network throughout our bodies.

While compressed nerves in our feet can be the culprit, the constriction may happen elsewhere yet reflected only in the feet.

How to Ease Numb Feet

But the real question is, what can be done about it? 

Because the origin of the dilemma can vary for every cyclist, the result of a series of trial-and-error actions will define your success in easing the problem.

Follows are popular causes and what you can do about them.

Move the Cleat Back Slightly

Where are your cleats positioned? 

They should be under the ball of the foot, directly on top of the spindle. This zone takes the brunt of our body weight on and off the bike. 

Are your cleats too far forward from this point? 

You may be riding on your toes instead of dispersing the force throughout the foot.

If the answer is no, try moving your cleats back a smidge. If you’ve tapped out on space due to shoe limits, adaptors like this one are Shimano SPD, LOOK, Time, and Speedplay compatible to help you in your cause.

Just how far back should you go? Read here to find out more.

Size Your Shoe Up or Wider

Our feet get bigger during exercise which can pinch off blood and nerve supply in your shoes causing foot numbness.

Are your shoe straps or BOAs too tight? Loosen them a bit and see how it goes.

No luck? Try a larger or wider pair?

Sometimes, cycling shoes that are too narrow or small only add to potential problems. Go up a ½ size or choose a brand such as Shimano or Giro that offers larger widths like E. Test new potential brands on your way home after a long ride to dial in the sizing.

Read More : A Beginner’s Guide to Cycling Shoes

Consider Custom Orthotics

If you have challenges with your everyday shoes or wear orthotics already, chances are you’ll need the same for your cycling shoes. Arches are designed to disperse weight over our entire foot, but without the proper support, they cannot do their job correctly.

Custom orthotics mimic and reinforce your natural footbed, correcting poor arch support and better aligning your foot in your cycling shoe.

Wear Shoe Covers

Conceivably the easiest fix if your numbness only happens when riding prolonged distances in cold weather. Even if you don’t feel as though your feet suffer from frigid conditions, they may be.

Invest in or borrow a quality pair of warm winter booties and see if they provide any relief. I also recommend wearing a toasty pair of merino wool cycling socks when temps drop.

Professional Bike Fit

Every cyclist could benefit from a professional bike fit, but it isn’t automatic for many of us. Newer cyclists might not even know that this type of fitting service even exists.

A professional will use their experience, and a series of professional fitting tools to find your optimal cycling position to resolve your numbness issues.

Read More : 5 Things to Know Before Getting A Bike Fit

Incorrect Saddle Height

I see many cyclists with incorrect saddle heights when I’m out on my bike.

It’s doubtful that all of them suffer from numb feet, but it’s a cause that shouldn’t be ignored. Saddles that are too high force a rocking motion when pedaling which can affect both nerves and blood flow.

Too low?

The burden of our body mass is exaggerated on a few key joints and muscle groups like hips, knees, and hamstrings where the important nerve and blood supplies circulate. The added weight on these bits increases compression with each revolution which leads to numbness.

Screws Too Long

Depending on the last of your cycling shoes, your cleat screws may be a touch long.

You might not feel it, but if they’re poking through from under your footbed, this could create abnormal pressure points as you pedal.

Most brands sell normal and long screws to satisfy the shoe market, make sure you aren’t using the long version when standard could do fine.

Spindles Too Short

A professional bike fit can be the definitive answer to this potential cause, but pedal spindles that are too short can affect your natural foot position and thus how your feet distribute weight and force as you pedal.

The mathematical difference may only be a degree or two on paper, but the result may cause your numbness.

Dan Matthews

Dan Matthews

Dan Matthews is an avid cyclist who has raced competitively in the amateur ranks until his mid 30s. He's married with 3 kids aged 5, 7, and 10. Dan loves cycling because of the challenge it offers both physically and mentally, as well as the sense of freedom that comes with riding outside. When not riding or writing about cycling, you can find Dan obsessing himself in his latest hobby, scuba diving.