Why Do My Toes Go Numb When I Exercise?

low angle view of a young woman tying the laces on her sneakers

Numbness in the toes and feet is a relatively common problem for athletes and those who exercise casually. There are several different possible causes of toe numbness during exercise, and different correlating solutions and treatments. Although numbness in the toes or foot can be caused by footwear or by the act of exercise itself, it can also signal an underlying medical problems Consult your doctor if you are concerned about continuing foot or toe numbness.

Numbness and Diabetes

Numbness in the toes and feet is a common symptom associated with diabetes. If you have diabetes, the condition may cause some damage to your body's nerves in a condition known as diabetic neuropathy. The symptoms of such diabetic neuropathy may be alleviated by quitting smoking, controlling your blood sugar and undergoing regular foot examinations by a health care provider. MedlinePlus recommends patients with diabetes have at least two foot examinations every year.

Fluid Buildup

Compartment syndrome is caused by fluid buildup -- or swelling -- in one or more of your body's muscle "compartments." Although compartment syndrome is most commonly seen in either the forearm or the lower leg, it is possible to develop the syndrome in your foot -- this is one possible cause of toe numbness while running or working out. You may develop compartment syndrome as a result of a physical trauma or from a repetitive stress injury.

Morton's Neuroma

Numbness focused around the area between your third and fourth toes, spreading to the ball of your foot, is a characteristic symptom of a condition known as Morton's neuroma. This condition is caused by a thickening of the tissue surrounding one of the nerves connected to your toes. If you have Morton's neuroma, you are likely to feel stinging, burning or numbness in your toes and in the ball of your foot. The condition is typically treated using special supportive footwear, corticosteroid injections or surgery.

The Wrong Shoes

Toe numbness during exercise may not be indicative of a specific medical condition but may be caused by something as simple as wearing training shoes which are too short or too narrow in the toe box. Make sure you are wearing correctly sized, well fitting and comfortable footwear when you work out. Wearing thinner socks will give you more space in the toe box of your training shoes. Your foot may also feel numb if you tie your shoes too tightly. The pressure of the laces can cut off blood flow and lead to numbness much like when your foot falls asleep.