Numb Feet During Elliptical Exercise
The elliptical exercise machine allows you to move your body in a part cross-country, part running motion. Thanks to movable pedals on the elliptical platform, you are able to get your heart pumping without the high impact of running. However, the stationary nature of your feet on the elliptical pedals can create another problem -- foot numbness after extended use.
One of the common underlying conditions associated with elliptical exercise and the feet is known as neuritis or neuroma. This occurrence typically causes symptoms such as tingling in the ball of your foot and/or between the third and fourth toes. Another name for neuritis or neuroma is simply nerve irritation. The consistent pressure on your feet that occurs when you use an elliptical exercise machine can cause this irritation. This sensation can be similar to irritation you may experience if you spend several hours working while standing.
The second underlying cause of foot numbness during elliptical exercise is known as capsulitis. This condition occurs when the joint capsules — pieces of cartilage that cover your bones — become inflamed. Because these capsules tend to have a significant number of nerves and blood vessels, this condition tends to be accompanied by numbness and pain in your feet, where neuritis does not typically cause pain.
Numbness while using the elliptical machine does not always signal a more serious condition, such as nerve injury. By taking steps to reduce foot numbness, you can determine whether the cause is something more serious. Start by evaluating your shoes. Tying your shoes too tightly can reduce circulation to your feet and contribute to foot numbness. Shoes that are too small or narrow also can cause harmful effects. You also may wish to alternate your stance on the elliptical machine, switching from putting most of your weight on your toes to leaning back more on your heels. Alternating the incline on your elliptical can help to change your foot positioning as well.
If your preventive methods do not reduce your foot numbness, you may wish to see a physician who can evaluate your feet and ensure you are not experiencing an underlying injury. In some instances, a blood clot or narrowing arteries also can cause foot pain, and both occurrences can be potentially harmful to your health.
- Hohmann E, Reaburn P, Tetsworth K, Imhoff A. Plantar Pressures During Long Distance Running: An Investigation of 10 Marathon Runners. J Sports Sci Med. 2016;15(2):254–262.
- Damiano DL, Norman T, Stanley CJ, Park HS. Comparison of elliptical training, stationary cycling, treadmill walking and overground walking. Gait Posture. 2011;34(2):260–264. doi:10.1016/j.gaitpost.2011.05.010
Rachel Nall began writing in 2003. She is a former managing editor for custom health publications, including physician journals. She has written for The Associated Press and "Jezebel," "Charleston," "Chatter" and "Reach" magazines. Nall is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Tennessee.