How to avoid numb feet and toes when cycling

(Photo: Triathlon Today)

It’s a common problem among cyclists: numb or tingling feet and toes. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to avoid this strange sensation. There is a good chance that by paying attention to the following three things you can solve the problem: the size and model of your shoes, correct cleat positioning and your flexibility and cycling position.

Earlier we shared tips on preventing and treating lower back pain that is caused by cycling.

Small cycling shoes

The most common cause of the weird sensation you can start to feel in your feet when cycling are poorly fitted cycling shoes. As your feet usually swell when riding a bike, your shoes often end up being too tight. Because this leads to poor blood circulation in your feet, they can start to feel numb.

It’s important to keep in mind that your feet might need a bit of extra space as they swell while riding. This means that if your shoes are snug-fitting before you hop on the bike, they will only get tighter after a few kilometers. If it’s not the length of the shoes that is the issue, but rather the width, you could just loosen your shoes a bit during a ride.

Incorrect cleat positioning

It’s probably not the first thing you think of when your feet and toes feel numb, but incorrect cleat positioning can often cause issues. The cleat should be placed just behind the ball of your foot, in order to transfer the power generated by your legs most efficiently to the pedals. If the cleat is positioned too far forward there could be too much pressure on the ball of your foot, which could lead to some pinched nerves.

The best way to find out what cleat positioning works best for you, is through a professional bike fit. But, if you like to experiment yourself, you can always try to make some adjustments to the positioning.

Strength, flexibility and positioning

We sometimes bend ourselves in the most awkward positions in the pursuit of great aerodynamics. If you sit very low on the bike, there could be an increased tension on your back and pelvis. While this usually leads to stiffness and cramping, it can also – indirectly – cause a numb feeling in your feet. A strong core and good flexibility can help to avoid this, just like a good bike fit can always help you sit better and avoid certain muscles getting compressed.