This weeks post is all about that numbing sensation that many people get when they run. It can start as a pins and needles or as a burning under the ball of the foot. But one thing I know it can hurt like hell and prevent you from running! But why? Where does it come from and how can we help to prevent it?! Let’s have a look shall we…
First thing to clarify is why this sensation develops. The key area of the foot this sensation mainly comes from is the metatarsals. In your foot there are 5 and then 5 phalanges (toe bones) are attached. In between these metarsals (apart from ligaments tendons and fascia), there lies nerves. Numbing comes from a compression of nerves which causes their pathway to be disturbed and thus the resulting feeling is numbness/burning as they are dysfunctional. There are two main reasons why when we run this can occur. First is an anatomical issue, second is a quick adjustment you can make to your shoes which could solve everything!
So for the anatomy first. Previously I referred to the 5 metatarsals that make up the foot. The way these bones form at the front of your foot can be a huge factor to foot numbness. If any of the metatarsal heads, (just behind your toes) sit lower than one another when the foot is in plantar flexion (so pushing off the ground), this can cause increased pressure through that joint and thus cause numbing as the nerves become compressed. For a small group of people this excess loading and pressure on the metatarsals can lead to the development of a mortons neuroma. It’s simply when the nerve has been irritated so much it thickens to a small lump. It can ultimately be removed through surgery or via steroid injections.
Now to know whether you have a dropped metatarsal you can have an idea by looking where the hard skin on your foot builds up. Hard skin is an indication of high pressure- NOT necessarily a tells us the metatarsal is dropped as hard skin can build up anywhere! We can look at the insole that is inside a well used shoe. Inside you will see your natural wear pattern and that should certainly give you an indication of your higher areas of pressure. Otherwise getting a more in depth gait analysis will tell you this using a foot scan.
-If you simply just lace your trainers slightly looser between the last 3 laces this can relieve the element of compression from the mid foot and allow the nerves to function better.
-There is also a specific lacing method (see pictures below) for those with a high instep who are prone to fee this more due to their foot shape.
-Purchasing shoes which are too narrow will also cause extra unnecessary compression of the foot too.
-Another option is an insole. One which contacts the whole foot to help distribute force better.
-Lastly, if all of the above have failed visit a doctor and/or a podiatrist to test for any other external health factors that may be causing the issue.
Hope this helps anyone struggling, any questions just get in touch 😊