View Full Version : Numb Feet?

06-16-2015, 15:31
Hello, i just returned from an 8 day trip to the Superior Hiking Trail in northern Minnesota. Had a great time even though we had quite a bit of rain and muddy trails. I was actually happy to see the rain so I could try out a few new items I have picked up. The umbrella being the main one. It worked perfectly! One thing that i ran into that I had never experienced before was numb feet during a long muddy steep downhill. I started to notice this about 3/4 of the way down and it continued until I got to the bottom. After reaching flat ground the numbness went away quickly and did not return. is this something that is preventable? it wasnt a horrible feeling but it wasnt that great either. I was wearing a pair of Keen trail runners and Darn Tough socks. They were both very comfortable, did not feel too tight or loose at any time. i have been to the SHT three times now and never experienced this before. Could it be due to the wet muddy trail? I should say that prior to this situation my feet had been wet for about 4 days straight, other than at camp. Would that have something to do with it? My concern is the downhills on the AT will be considerably longer and I dont want to run into this issue out there if it is preventable. At first i thought it was a circulation issue but couldnt make sense of that since my shoes were not too tight or ill fitting,. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

06-16-2015, 15:37
might be pinching a nerve somewhere.......

but, and i aint no doctor, i would think that wouldnt go away as quickly as you state.......

06-16-2015, 16:30
It was your entire foot, or just some portion of it?

There is a nerve that runs underneath where you would normally tie your shoes. Pinching this nerve can cause numbness from the ball of your foot forward to the toes, and is not caused by over-tightening your laces, but rather just a placement of the individual laces. I imagine this could be exasperated by going downhill, as you are more likely to be putting more pressure on the tongue of your shoe near the knot. The normal fix to this would be to relocate the laces at the top of the shoe, generally by changing which eyelets the laces use, either skipping the second to last eyelet, or using the often-unused far-back eyelet instead of the more commonly used top-most eyelet. Most of the time moving the laces just a few millimeters can resolve the issue.

The only other possibility I can think of is that if your shoes were too loose, your foot might clench (think about your foot trying to make a fist) to "hold onto" your shoes, especially as they were sliding forward in your shoe on a decline. Keeping your feet clenched like that might slow down circulation enough to cause the numbness. I doubt that is the issue, as you would probably feel your feet clenching like that, and they would be sore afterwards.

I would probably try changing the lacing around and see if the issue recurs. If you have any questions about changing the lacing at the top of your shoe, a local outfitter or running store should probably be able to help.

06-16-2015, 16:34
As it only occurred during the downhill section and went away immediately, local compression of the foot would seem to be the most likely cause, rather than more obscure causes like a spine problem or beginning of trench foot (Note: but wet and even moderately cool feet will often increase other sources of irritation). Even though you say your shoes aren't too tight or ill fitting, something is likely happening (nerve and/or blood vessel compression) when the foot gets forced toward the front of the shoe going downhill. You might want to try different lacing techniques (like "heel lock" or others), try different shoes, larger size, etc. Just because shoes "fit" on a level surface doesn't mean they'll work well dynamically while going up and down hills, and typically this is because a shoe is too short or narrow. If you can afford it, a visit to a podiatrist wouldn't hurt, and a good shoe/boot fitter as well.

06-16-2015, 16:45
Wow! i appreciate all of your help and tips. I am in the process of getting some new shoes now, due to other reasons but i will take all of this into account. i plan on going to our local running/trail shoe store as they seem very knowledgable as far as fitting goes. he also has some experience fitting shoes for long distance hikers.

The numbness was thru my entire feet, not just one particular area. I was a bit alarmed after i noticed it but it then went away very quickly. i was worried about nerve damage or something along those lines but i will try lacing the shoes differently and will double check that i am getting the right shoes for the job.

Thanks again for all of the responses!