Can’t…feel…my…toes

The puzzle of the month is this: why is the big toe on each of my feet going numb after just about 5 miles every time I go out on the bike?  This used to happen when I was training for the 1/2 IMs in both Providence and Florida, but I blew it off as a side-effect of knowing nothing about what I was doing, and having shoddy equipment.  I was riding MTB 2-bolt clip-ins for a while, and the surface area was so small that I wasn’t surprised when my toes went numb – it actually kind of made sense.  Now I ride Shimano Ultegra pedals with carbon-bottom Specialized shoes – read: a broader-base pedal and a strong-soled shoe that both spread the pressure on each crank revolution a LOT more than I used to have.

STILL though, the numbness remains.  I’ve been reading some other blogs that talk about this as well as a Beginner Triathlete forum that specifically references this problem, and the consensus seems to implicate the cleat position.  Posters want the bulk of pressure to be transferred to the ball of the foot – this makes a lot of sense, but it’s hard with only about .75 cm of horizontal give in cleat placement to get it right where it needs to go.

I just went on a little 20 mile ride with some hills and varying speeds to test a cleat adjustment (see image: I put the cleats all the way forward) – and I got numb EARLIER.  They came from all the way back, so I really don’t know what to do from here.

Other thoughts are that it’s related to arch height, but that means insoles.  Maybe this is related to the fact that my knees are a bit further out than they should be on the bike, who knows – both, it seems, are related to my foot position, so maybe I just need to get to the bike store and spend an hour on the trainer with them to check out some insoles.  I saw a suggestion on Beginner Triathlete for the Superfeet insoles, but I’ve never tried them – I’ll have to check it out.

Conclusion: nothing conclusive.  But I see there are a few things to be done: (1) refit leg position on my bike and (2) test out a few insoles to see if it makes a difference.  More coming following tests…

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2 Responses

  1. This sometimes happends to me too. But it also happends when running or using the elipitical trainer. I was told that it is caused by a type of compartment syndrome.
    Who knows? It is totally random for me. Sometimes not occuring for months, then almost with every workout.
    Definately get your leg position on the bike checked (save your knees).

    • Thanks for your comment! Sounds like I need to get my position checked by a professional. As I recall, compartment syndrome is accompanied by a strong and continuous pain due to nerve damage and blood vessel compression. It sounds like, at least in my case, compartment syndrome COULD develop as a result of continued activity (all the more reason to check it out!), but it doesn’t sound like something that I’ve got at present. The more I think and read about this, the more I think it’s just leg position – I will post when I figure this all out (if)!!!

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