If your toes suddenly go numb, it can be extremely scary. But don’t panic: not every instant of toe numbness is a major cause for concern. Still, losing feeling in your extremities could be a sign of an underlying medical condition, so it’s important to see your podiatrist if your toe numbness is persistent, or recurs frequently.

What are the symptoms of toe numbness? Numb, tingly toes should never be ignored: it's important to see your podiatrist to figure out the root cause of your symptoms.

For some people, ‘numbness’ is a literal symptom—you’ll lose all sensation in your toes. For others, however, this condition will include symptoms like:

  • tingling
  • the feeling of pins and needles
  • insensitivity to pressure, cold or hot stimuli

For some people, toe numbness will quickly resolve and never return. Others will need to treat underlying medical conditions in order to prevent frequent toe numbness.

What makes my toes go numb?

From simple mistakes to serious medical conditions, so many things can make your toes go numb. Let’s explore some of the more common causes:

Tight Shoes

If your shoes are too tight, especially in the toe box, they can limit circulation to your extremities. This, in turn, will leave your toes numb and tingly. Even if your shoes are fitted properly, tying your aces too tightly can also keep blood from flowing past your midfoot. If this is the cause of your numbness, sensation should return as soon as you remove your shoes or loosen up those laces.

Over Exercising

When you run, walk or even hit the elliptical for too long, your feet and toes may start to go numb. Why? As you go through the exercise motions, you’re putting tons of pressure on the balls of your feet, as well as your toes. To minimize this type of numbness, try to shift your movements so your heel strikes the ground first. Wearing properly fitted, supportive foot wear during exercise will also minimize this type of numbness but, again, your symptoms should resolve within minutes of stopping your workout.

Cold Temps Cold weather exposure can leave your toes numb, especially if you suffer from Raynaud's syndrome

As we know here in the Chicago-land area, cold weather can leave your tootsies without much feeling in them. This is especially true if you suffer from Raynaud's syndrome, a condition in which your blood vessels respond too strongly to cold weather, leaving toes (and fingers) numb. Your skin may also change colors with this condition.

Whether you have Reynaud’s or not, you can help prevent cold-weather numbness by layering warmly during the winter months, and keeping feet covered, even when you’re in the warmth of your own home. For most people, cold weather-numbness should resolve when your body temperature rises; for people with Reynaud’s, symptoms—especially skin color changes—may take a little longer to resolve.

Injuries

If you’ve bumped, banged or dropped something on your toe, and now you’re experiencing numbness, it could be broken. See your podiatrist ASAP as this numbness likely won’t heal until your broken bone is properly set and on the path to healing.

Morton's neuroma

When you have this condition, the tissue around those nerves in the ball of your foot have thickened. This can leave your toes burning and/or feeling numb. Fortunately, your Elmhurst podiatrists can help you manage the pain of this condition by:

  • Making shoe changes
  • Providing custom orthotics to take pressure off your nerve
  • Recommending rest from running 
  • Providing steroid injections

Diabetic Neuropathy

Some diabetic patients may develop neuropathy—a condition that causes numb, tingling toes and feet because of nerve damage related to high blood sugar levels. Maintaining a healthy blood sugar level and performing regular foot checks can help prevent this condition which is important, since neuropathy-related numbness isn’t always reversible.

Do I need to see a Doctor for Toe Numbness?  Unless your toe numbness can be resolved by changing or untying your shoes, go see your doctor to rule out a serious condition.

As we reviewed in this post, sometimes the cause of your numb toes is obvious. In those cases, you’ll regain sensation as soon as the triggering issue is resolved. If that is the case, then there’s obviously no need to go see your doctor.

If, however, you can’t immediately determine the cause of your toe numbness, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your podiatrist. Why? Once you come into the office, we can take a look at everything that’s going on with your health. We’ll review all the symptoms you’re experiencing—not just your toe numbness—so that we can figure out what health issues or conditions could be causing you to lose sensation in your feet. And once we do figure out the root cause of your issue, we can come up with a plan to help manage the discomfort of this symptom—or, better yet, resolve it altogether.

We know it can be tempting to ignore your foot symptoms, especially if you’re still able to make your way through daily activities. And we know that, when your toes suddenly go numb, it can be scary, and you may want to avoid hearing bad news from your podiatrist.

But here’s the takeaway we need you to remember: toe numbness is often a symptom of a more serious condition. A condition that, without treatment, could progress and leave you dealing with even more uncomfortable side effects. If for no other reason than that fact, you should never ignore a loss of sensation in your toes or feet. Simply make an appointment with your doctor, so you can get to the root cause of this issue. In so doing, you could save yourself from months or years of painful tingling—and often with simple, non-invasive treatment plans and moderate lifestyle changes!

 

Jordana White
Jordana Rothstein White