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Do Your Feet Go Numb When You Run?

  • By Catherine Mallette
  • Published May 16, 2012
  • Updated Oct 24, 2012 at 3:49 PM UTC

First, when you run, your toes go numb. As things progress, it feels like your socks are folding under the ball of your foot. Finally, that sensation morphs into pain, like you are running on a sharp pebble.

Welcome to Morton’s neuroma. Andrew Getzin, M.D., a triathlete and clinical director at Cayuga Medical Center in Ithaca, N.Y., breaks down the injury:

What’s happening in the foot? The nerves that lead to the toes get irritated, and the body responds by increasing the production of collagen, which wraps around those nerves and causes the pain.

Why does it happen? Usually you’ve made changes in your training and your body has not adapted correctly.

How do you heal it? Do not run through pain. You’ll risk turning an inflammation into a muscular-skeletal injury. “Take a day or two off; chances are, you’ll get better,” he says. Run in appropriate footwear with a wide toe box. Avoid high heels.

What if the pain doesn’t subside? Getzin will study a patient’s running mechanics to try to alter the way the load is placed on the foot. While some doctors give cortisone injections for pain, he warns against repeated injections that can thin the protective muscles on the bottom of the foot.

Are there other treatment options? Metatarsal pads can take pressure off the inflamed area. But they’re not a long-term solution. Surgery may be an option if other strategies fail—the success rate is 80 percent.

This article originally appeared in the May 2012 issue of Triathlete magazine. Subscribe to Triathlete and save 51% off the cover price.

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