Elliptical machines are a great option for preventing joint injuries compared to treadmills, but many enthusiastic fans complain of numbness in the feet. Foot numbness, or paresthesia, is a common phenomenon when using an elliptical that can be avoided with very simple adjustments.
Numbness From Pressure
In most cases, paresthesia is the result of consistent, unrelenting pressure on the balls of the feet. The joint-protecting benefits of an elliptical machine stem from the fixed position of the feet. Since you are not stepping or jumping, the wear and tear on your joints is minimal. However, that same fixed position is what causes you to put too much continuous pressure on the balls of your feet. This can prevent the free flow of blood to your feet, giving you that numb feeling. The best way to prevent this is to change up your exercise after several minutes by rotating backward on your elliptical. This adjustment will temporarily put the pressure on your heel, relieving the ball of your foot and letting blood flow back into your toes.
Are Your Shoes Too Tight?
Pressure from foot positioning isn't the only culprit when it comes to numb feet. Sometimes lacing your footwear too tightly can cause paresthesia. Loosen your footwear around the toes. This will help take some of the force off of your feet, which will help with blood flow. Try wiggling your toes every so often as you exercise to work the blood back into them.
Prevention is the Best Cure
Stiffness in the feet can contribute to numbness and inflammation. Be sure to stretch before starting your workout. Do calf raises to work the arch of your foot, getting a good blood flow from toe to heel. Sit down and pull back on your toes, stretching your arch in the opposite direction. These warm-up movements ought to help stave off that prickly numbness.
Sometimes There is a Larger Problem
While these tools will help reverse and prevent foot numbness, if the problem persists you should consider seeing a podiatrist. Extended pressure on the foot can cause nerve irritation, or "neuroma," that should be addressed before exercising again. According to Dr. Saam, a podiatrist in Washington, nerves in the joint capsules in the ball of the foot can become inflamed if subjected to the constant pressure of an elliptical. If your numbness graduates to pain, be sure to check with your doctor before continuing your exercise routine.
Meredith Berg received her B.F.A. in directing from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. Now living in Los Angeles, she works as a film and television writer, comic-book editor and director of plays and films. In addition, she loves tackling paleo recipes, workout routines and DIY projects.