Numb Feet on Elliptical Machines - An Annoying, but Avoidable Problem

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It is likely that you have experienced the nuisance of numb feet while using an elliptical trainer if you are one of the thousands of people who choose an elliptical as the means to achieving your aerobic exercise goals. This is a very common problem with elliptical users; and for some, it is such a large problem that they choose another means of aerobic exercise altogether.

If this is a problem for you, there’s good news. There are many ways of preventing the sleepy foot condition, and it is easier than you may think. Before you can solve the problem, however, it is important to understand what is causing it.

What Causes Numb Feet on Elliptical Machines?

Does it seem odd to you that your feet could go numb while the rest of your body is moving so much? While leaving your feet on the pedals is the reason that ellipticals are such a low impact option, it is also precisely the reason so many people suffer from numb feet on an elliptical trainer. Just as when you are standing in a crowd or waiting for a line to move, keeping your feet stationary while exercising is just the right condition for getting numb feet on an elliptical. When you stand on your feet for more than a few minutes without lifting them, the pressure on your nerves causes paresthesia, or in other words, it causes them to fall asleep.

Although the numbness is most commonly the effect of paresthesia due to the pressure on your nerves, there are some medical conditions such as Morton’s neuroma and diabetes that could be underlying factors. You should initially check with your doctor to rule out these possibilities as the reason for numb feet when using an elliptical machine.

What You Can Do to Alleviate Numbness

Most people do not understand the importance of wearing proper footwear and the benefit it has on their workout. Especially when using an elliptical trainer, wearing well-cushioned shoes is imperative to relieving some of the pressure on the nerves in your feet. You should also ensure that your footwear fits appropriately and that their laces are loose enough to leave enough room for your toes to move. While this is a great first step, it may not be enough to alleviate the numbness altogether.

To solve the issue, you must tackle the root cause of it: the constant pressure of your body weight on your feet. There are quite a few approaches to solving the problem of foot numbness on elliptical trainers. Some people have to try out a few different options before finding the one that works for them.

A few options for alleviating numb or sleepy feet are:

Move your feet – try lifting your feet at the top of each cycle, to keep the blood circulating in your feet. You could also simply try wiggling your toes every few minutes. If those options do not work for you, there is also a technique called heel-to-toe flexion. To perform this technique, you would rock your feet from front to back on the pedal while exercising. For most people, the problem of numb feet on an elliptical trainer only occurs in one foot at a time, but if your numbness occurs in both feet, you should perform these techniques with both feet at the same time. It also helps to perform these movements starting in the beginning of your workout to prevent the numbness altogether.

Try shorter workouts – sometimes it is best to try two thirty-minute workouts rather than one excessively long workout. The targeted time range for a cardio workout on an elliptical machine should be from thirty to forty-five minutes for optimal fat burning. Working out for longer than forty-five minutes is excessive and could be counterproductive to your cardio conditioning. Excessively long workouts tend to lead to numb feet.

Pedal backwards – a simple change in pedaling direction may be all that you need to get the blood flowing in your feet again. Alternating the direction will change the emphasis of pressure from your heel to the ball of your foot, increasing your foot’s movement during the workout.

Try a different elliptical machine – some elliptical trainers are positioned at an incline while others are not. For some people, the problem of numb feet while using an elliptical trainer is worsened when the machine’s elliptical arch is too flat.

Use articulating foot pedals – using foot pedals that rotate centrically around a pin allows you to change the emphasis of pressure from your heel to the ball of your foot, just as pedaling backwards does. Using articulating foot pedals is simpler than changing the pedaling direction and does not interrupt the flow of your cycling. If you are in the market for a cross trainer, read a few elliptical reviews to find out which companies make ellipticals with articulating foot pedals.

Foot numbness can be a big nuisance for elliptical users, but before you decide to move your aerobic workout to another machine, try these simple solutions and see if they work out for you. For many users, the problem of numb feet on an elliptical machine is an annoying, but avoidable, problem.

About the Author: Kevin Urban is the webmaster and editor of, the web's foremost site on elliptical trainer consumer information.


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