Weekly Wellness: Why do my feet go numb on the elliptical?

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One of the more strange questions I'm asked is more common than you think: why do my feet go numb when I'm on the elliptical?

Yes, believe it or not, this is incredibly common. And while it can be annoying, it's not an indication that something is wrong with your feet or anything chronic. Numbness while on the elliptical is caused by constant pressure on the balls of your feet and toes.

Here are a few reasons that it can happen and solutions to try:

Try larger shoes. (This applies to everyone - not just someone experiencing numbness on the elliptical.) When you exercise, your feet swell. It's generally a good idea to buy your athletic shoes at least a half-size (to sometimes a full size) larger than you wear in everyday shoes.

Pivoting on the machine. Most elliptical trainers keep your feet stationary and on a flat pedal. If this is the cause for your decreased sensation, look for a different type of machine. Some ellipticals have foot pads that pivot to move your heels and toes up and down. This can reduce the chance of foot numbness.

Try different foot placement. The placement of your feet on the foot pads can make a difference. If you find your weight moving forward into the balls of your feet, you may experience numbness. Slide your feet forward or backward on the pedals until you feel comfortable with blood flow returning to your toes. Keep your weight in your heels instead of forward on your toes as you push down on the pedals.

Wiggle your toes. While on the elliptical, if you start to experience numbness in your toes, slightly lift your feet and wiggle your toes. (If lifting your foot throws off your rhythm, wiggle your toes inside your shoes to increase the circulation.)

Take it backwards. One of the more simple ways to reduce toe/foot numbness on the elliptical is to pedal backwards for a minute or two for every twenty minutes that you pedal forward.

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