Why Do My Feet Go Numb on an Elliptical?

Exercise with Elliptical Machine

How many times have you been at the gym, pushing yourself to the max on the elliptical, feeling those calories burn—all to suddenly feel tingling in your feet? This mild sensation goes from noticeable to distracting, and then next thing you know, your workout is forced to come to an end because now your feet feel numb. But why do they go numb every time you’re on the elliptical? 

Your feet may go numb while on an elliptical because of nerve aggravation; this can be caused by constant pressure on the bottom of your feet, loose or tight shoes, or your toes hitting the machine’s pedals. It could also occur due to a lack of circulation or an underlying medical condition. 

Although the sensation—or lack of—in numb feet is uncomfortable, it is rarely a sign of anything serious. In fact, this is a common occurrence for those who frequently use an elliptical. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to avoid or resolve this issue, so you can hop back on the machine and finish that workout. 

Is the Elliptical Bad for Your Feet?

Woman Workout on Elliptical

The elliptical is one of the most popular machines to use at the gym or home. Just about anyone can use it no matter your age, limitations, or experience. And, despite the frequent numbness and tingling, the elliptical can actually be good for your feet. It allows you to get the same cardio benefits of running, getting your blood circulation going to provide blood and oxygen throughout your body. 

Most runners experience muscle, joint, and tendon pain, often from the feet repeatedly hitting the ground. Using the elliptical eliminates the need for this movement, allowing your feet to stay grounded so you can have an effective and safe workout. And, by reducing the impact on your legs and feet, the elliptical will give you the same great results without the long-term problems associated with running.

How Do I Stop My Feet from Going Numb on the Elliptical?

To stop your feet from going numb while using the elliptical, you need to figure out what is making them go numb in the first place. 

For the most part, the numbness will result from nerve irritation; however, depending on the exact cause of this, different solutions may be able to help you avoid this issue altogether. 

Wear the Right Shoes

Wearing shoes that do not correctly fit your feet will cause numbness during any activity where you are consistently and quickly moving. 

If your shoes are too loose, your feet will slide back and forth and cause nerve aggravation, ultimately numbing your feet. If they are too tight, the circulation will be cut off, giving you the same results. 

Here are some tips to keep in mind when finding the right pair of shoes for elliptical use:

  • Be sure that you only wear shoes made for working out when you’re on the elliptical. Brands like Nike, Adidas, and Asics, for example, offer a great variety of comfortable and attractive shoes designed for an intense workout. 
  • The sneakers you would typically wear for weight-training are not designed for feet in constant motion like when on an elliptical. Therefore, look for shoes made for cross-training or running.  
  • When purchasing your running shoes, make sure you are buying the proper size. Even a half size off can make a huge difference. Many shoe stores have trained professionals to make sure you wear the right shoe for your foot shape and size. 

Use Proper Technique

The elliptical was designed for your feet to stay immobile to reduce the impact on your lower body. So, if your toes are consistently hitting the pedals because you keep shifting your feet, it’s likely going to lead to numbness.

You will maintain great results and avoid injury—and numbness—on an elliptical as long as you keep your feet planted. Make yourself conscious of your feet during the rotation of the pedals. Always remind yourself not to move them no matter how tired your legs are.

Change Up Your Stance

If you prefer to run on the balls and toes of your feet, you will likely experience numbness on the elliptical as you adjust to how you shift your weight from one foot to the other. 

Running this way normally is fine, but since your feet can’t leave the platform on an elliptical as the pedals rotate, this technique becomes more challenging to use. Therefore, you may be tempted to keep your feet flat the entire time you use the machine. However, doing this will make it more difficult for your feet to regain circulation, which will lead to your feet becoming numb. 

To overcome this issue, change your movement throughout the workout. After going forward on the elliptical for ten minutes, reposition your feet and go backward for ten minutes. You could also wiggle your toes or shake your foot once the tingle starts to come on. Giving yourself just a moment to regain proper circulation can make all the difference.

Address Underlying Medical Issues

The elliptical is a great way to stay healthy, but everyone’s body has its limitations. If you have underlying medical conditions contributing to your feet’s numbness—such as diabetes, fibromyalgia, or planter’s fasciitis—it’s best to consult your doctor before using an elliptical to prevent injury and avoid exacerbating the issue.  

Besides the conditions listed above, if you believe you have any health issues—especially those related to poor circulation, orthopedics, or the nervous system—always check with your physician before starting any workout routine. 

If you develop tingling or numbness in your feet that does not subside after using an elliptical, you will also want to contact your doctor to screen you for any conditions you may not be aware of. 

Treating Numb Feet After Elliptical Use

If you experience a fair amount of tingling or numbness in your feet despite following some of the tips above, there are a few ways you can treat the issue:

  • Take a break: Give cardio a rest for a few days and focus on strength training or stretching.
  • Ice your feet: Icing your feet can alleviate some of the nerve irritation that causes the numbness.
  • Soak your feet: Soaking your feet in hot water with added Epsom salt can help relieve any tingling sensations or numbness. Allow your feet to soak for at least 10 to 15 minutes for the best results. 
  • Compression socks: These socks will help get your circulation back on track.
  • Rest: You know your body better than anyone; if your feet are not feeling right, the best thing you can do is take a break. 
  • Over-the-counter medications: Anti-inflammatory medications can help reduce swelling in your feet that may cause your numbness.
  • Replace your sneakers: If you keep having problems with numbness in your feet, try loosening up the laces to keep pressure off the top of your foot. If this doesn’t work, you may need to replace your sneaker all together with one that fits your feet better.

Finally, when in doubt, always consult your doctor. Although numbness in your feet is expected for elliptical users, contact your physician if it gets worse or isn’t getting better. They can evaluate you to make sure it isn’t anything more serious like a torn muscle.

Final Thoughts

Tingling and numbness in your feet is a relatively common problem while using the elliptical. However, don’t let this prevent you from taking advantage of the health benefits an elliptical workout can offer. Just like any other exercise, you need to understand the machine and exactly how to use it to get the most out of it; when used properly, the elliptical can keep you in great shape!

Benny Laker

I am the owner of High Tech Fitness. I love testing any kind of exercise equipment and enjoy sharing my insights with you.

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