Many people experience numbness or "pins and needles" in their feet (often in just one foot) when using an elliptical machine. For some, this sensation is a minor problem that only happens near the end of a long workout, but others may begin to experience it within the first few minutes of exercising.
If you only have this problem during your elliptical workout, it’s probably not a sign of a serious medical problem. It is most likely caused by your foot coming in constant contact with the foot pedal, which places pressure on the nerves in your feet for an extended period of time. This is different from the natural motion of walking or running, where your foot shifts the pressure from the front to the back of the foot with each stride.
There are several things you can do that may help minimize the problem:
1. Make sure you’re wearing well-cushioned shoes for your workout, and try tying them a little more loosely than you would for running or walking.
2. Avoid standing flat-footed on the elliptical foot pedals—try to duplicate the natural shift of weight from your heel to your toe during each stride. You could also look for an elliptical machine with "articulating" foot pedals that rotate around a central pivot (like the pedal on a bicycle), instead of pedals that remain fixed in the same position as they glide.
3. During your elliptical workout, change your pedaling direction from forward to backwards every few minutes, and/or vary the incline level if your machine has that feature.
4. Avoid long elliptical workouts. Try shorter, higher-intensity sessions, split your workout between the elliptical and another cardio exercise, or divide your workout into two sessions with a break in between.
If you frequently experience foot numbness at other times, you should discuss the problem with your doctor. It could be caused by a nerve disorder (e.g., Morton’s neuroma or diabetic neuropathy), circulation problems, or orthopedic problems that need treatment.
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