I've begun trying to commute to work, which is a 70+ minute ride each way for me. I find that after about 30 minutes of riding, my toes in both feet begin to go numb. It's not a cold thing, because it happens in warm weather too. It's more of a pins-and-needles, limb going to sleep feeling, though it hits all my toes and sometimes a little further into my foot (never really past the ball though).

This happened with my old flat pedals and several different pairs of shoes. I recently switched to clipless pedals and shoes and hoped it would stop with the stiffer sole and dedicated contact to the pedal, but no dice. My cycling shoes are quite comfortable and there is no pain associated with this, just the annoying numbness. Right now the only way I can fix it is to coast for a while so I can unclip and dangle/shake my foot around to get some feeling back into it. Unclipping and temporarily pedaling with my heel helps a little, but not much.

Anybody else have this problem or know how to alleviate it? Or am I just stuck with it due to some quirk in my anatomy?

  • 3
    On a hunch: try a different, possibly narrower saddle? One cause might be suboptimal circulation.
    – D.Salo
    May 13, 2015 at 21:47
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    My guess is that you are pointing your toes down and pushing your feet into the shoes as you ride. The plate on the bottom of the shoe should be far enough back that you are riding on the ball of the foot and can comfortably ride with your foot fairly level. Also check the height of your seat -- too high or too low will contribute to improper foot orientation. May 13, 2015 at 22:05
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    "Ankling" is sometimes called "toeing", and involves tilting the foot up and down (pivoting at the ankle) as you pedal. In theory you tilt your toes down as you press down, and tilt them up as you pull the foot up, so that the motion of the foot augments the pedal stroke. There are some folks that swear by this technique, and some that say that it's a bunch of hooey. (I have weak ankles from polio, so I've never been able to do it very well, and hence I have no experience to offer one way or the other.) May 14, 2015 at 1:09
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    I've found ankling to be very unnatural feeling and not something I can keep up for extended period easily. However, it does feel nice to do it occasionally for a short period just to get your ankles moving a bit, move fluid around the area. I just find that as soon as I stop thinking about it, I got back to not ankling.
    – SSilk
    Jun 5, 2015 at 13:28
  • 1
    The tingling you're describing sounds to me like lack of blood flow, not pinched nerves. If you're impinging on a nerve it will usually hurt/tingle very quickly, not after 30 minutes of impinging. Have you considered the simple answer that your shoes may be too tight? If it's an option, try loosening them up a lot, basically as loose as you can have them while still riding. Ride to work like that and see if the problem goes away. If it does, then experiment with tightening them back up a bit to find the point at which they're tight enough to ride but not enough to cut off circulation.
    – SSilk
    Jun 5, 2015 at 13:30

3 Answers 3


There is probably a combination of things that can help. Periodically getting your weight off can help as can making sure your pedaling stroke includes ankle flexion. In my experience, that helps a lot with circulation in my feet. Obviously, you'll want to make sure your shoes are not laced or velcro-ed too tight. I will often stand in the pedals and do calf stretches by flexing my ankles up and down (still clipped in) to help with foot circulation.

  • 1
    +1, I have this (or a like) problem when I wear my hiking boots tight on my bike, but not when I leave the strings loose.
    – Willeke
    Jul 22, 2015 at 16:58

I have had similar issues with numb feeling in my toes. Have tried my cleats in every possible position but it did not help. My local bicycle shop owner suggested some arch supports, he thought it had to do do with me having quite an high arch that pressing it down that much interrupted the blood flow.

Since I have arch supports I have not had any numb toes while cycling.

Hope this helps you.


One common solution is to move feet slightly forward in relation to where you usually put it when pedaling. This is easily achieved with cleats since their position dictates exactly that.

So in short, try moving your cleat further back from its normal position (the ball of the foot) to relieve the nerves at the base of the toes.

A suggestion by Lon Haldeman (Race Across America competitor) is to move them back so much you actually have to drill new holes into your shoes to fit them: https://docs.google.com/a/lopsae.com/file/d/0B3sCYFto8z6rbDRRbHB0cmNfLVU/edit

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