Read below about foot numbness, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your foot numbness from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Foot Numbness Symptoms

What did you feel when you took that last step? If you didn't feel anything, you're probably not levitating, and you may have a case of foot numbness. A side from being disorienting and uncomfortable, foot numbness can be a sign of significant health issues.

While the foot in itself is certainly prone to injury, foot numbness is often accompanied by other symptoms of the feet, legs, and body. Given the diverse list of potential causes, foot numbness symptoms can easily be a one-time event. Regardless, the loss of sensation in any part of the body, including the foot, is not normal and foot numbness symptoms should be monitored.

Foot numbness symptoms include:

  • Discomfort while standing or walking [4].
  • Weakness in the foot [5].
  • Loss of feeling in the foot[6].
  • Tingling or reduced sensation in the foot[8].
  • Pain in the foot and toes[9].

The bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles of the foot work in concert to help give us mobility and are strongly linked to the rest of the body [1]. Foot numbness is often not simply a localized issue with the foot, but tied to a larger issue of the body [2].

The symptoms surrounding foot numbness are just a piece of a larger puzzle that, once solved, may reveal a larger underlying issue. Several medical issues express themselves through foot numbness.

Foot Numbness Causes Overview

The foot withstands its fair share of bumps and bruises [3], but a traumatic event is only one of several potential causes of foot numbness. Numbness in the foot may not even be the result of an issue with the foot itself and could be caused by an issue found throughout the body or from trauma to a part of the leg [2, 4].

Environmental foot numbness causes:

  • Trauma: Injuries in the form of strains or breaks to the knee or shinbone can translate to numbness in the foot [4].
  • Nerve Damage: Compressing the nerves in the foot can lead to a variety of unpleasant sensations, including numbness [5]. Participating in athletics or exercising and wearing ill-fitting shoes are examples of activities that can put undue stress on and compress the nerves of the foot. Direct damage to nerves like the peroneal nerve can result in a similar outcome [4].
  • Vitamin Imbalance: The body requires adequate amounts of certain vitamins to function properly. Deficiencies in vitamins like B12 can lead to foot numbness symptoms [10, 11].

Disease-related foot numbness causes:

  • Metabolic: Chemical reactions in the body are disrupted by metabolic disorders like diabetes and fibromyalgia, potentially causing nerve disorders and numbness [10, 11].
  • Autoimmune: Inflammatory diseases attack various parts of the body resulting in a variety of ailments including numbness. Celiac disease and Multiple Sclerosis are examples of such diseases [9, 13].

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Foot Numbness

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced foot numbness. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Restless Legs Syndrome (Rls)

    Restless Legs Syndrome is a common condition characterized by an urge to move the legs in order to stop unpleasant sensations.

    RLS is a chronic and incurable condition, but many have their symptoms improve with treatment.

    Top Symptoms:
    daytime sleepiness, trouble sleeping, tingling lower leg, restless legs, difficulty falling asleep
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.Morton Neuroma

    Morton neuroma is nerve damage between the 2nd and 3rd toes, often found in women who run or wear tight high heels.

    Almost all patients do well with conservative (non-surgical) treatment

    Top Symptoms:
    foot numbness, pain in the sole of the foot, pain when touching the foot, pain in both feet, foot injury
  3. 3.Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

    The tarsal tunnel is a narrow space that lies on the inside of the ankle next to the ankle bones. Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a compression, or squeezing, on an important nerve called the posterior tibial nerve. This compression produces symptoms anywhere along the path of the nerve running from the inside of the ankle into the foot.

    Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a long-term condition that may need to be managed for months up to 1-2 years.

    Ultra rare
    Top Symptoms:
    tingling foot, pain in one foot, spontaneous foot pain, heel pain, pain in the top of the foot
    Primary care doctor
  4. 4.Sciatica

    The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve of the human body, and it runs through the buttock, down the thigh and into the calf, sending information to the muscles in the back of the thigh and leg, as well as the surrounding skin. The sciatic nerve itself is supplied by nerves coming from the spine in the lower back. Sometimes, one of the disks separating the vertebrae (bones of the spine) may bulge out a little bit, putting pressure on one of these nerve roots, causing sciatica, or shooting pain down the sciatic nerve.

    Problem will resolve itself within several weeks in 80-90% of cases.

    Top Symptoms:
    back pain, back pain that shoots down the leg, numbness in one foot, pain in one leg, numbness in one thigh
    Symptoms that always occur with sciatica:
    back pain that shoots down the leg
  5. 5.Chronic Idiopathic Peripheral Neuropathy

    Nerve damage in the limbs can be caused by diabetes, toxic substances, immune system issues and low vitamin levels. However, in about one of every four cases no cause can be found and then the condition is called 'idiopathic'. Symptoms of nerve damage can be (burning) pain sensations, numbness, tingling and weakness in hands, feet or lower legs.

    This is a chronic condition.

    Top Symptoms:
    distal numbness, muscle aches, joint stiffness, numbness on both sides of body, loss of muscle mass
    Primary care doctor

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  6. 6.Low Calcium Level

    Hypocalcemia is a condition where there is not enough calcium in the blood. Calcium is a mineral contained in the blood, which helps the heart and other muscles function properly, and is needed to maintain strong teeth and bones.

    Problem should go away with home care within weeks.

    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, shortness of breath, irritability, general numbness, tingling foot
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Diabetic Neuropathy

    Diabetic neuropathy is a condition where pain, numbness, weakness, and motor loss occur in the limbs due to the effects of diabetes on the nerves.

    Symptoms can last a lifetime.

    Ultra rare
    Top Symptoms:
    anxiety, depressed mood, trouble sleeping, diarrhea, fatigue
    Primary care doctor
  8. 8.Folate (Vitamin) Deficiency

    Folic acid (folate) is a vitamin that is needed to make new cells in the body, including red blood cells which carry oxygen through the blood and into various tissues throughout the body. Folate deficiency refers to a condition when there is not enough folic acid in the body, and can lead to symptoms such as tiredness, low energy, faintness, and difficulty breathing.

    People recover with no long-term effects within weeks.

    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, depressed mood, irritability, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea
    Symptoms that never occur with folate (vitamin) deficiency:
    abdominal swelling
    Phone call or in-person visit
  9. 9.Chemotherapy - Induced Nerve Damage

    Chemotherapy has many effects on the body. Some types of chemotherapy can cause irritation of the nerves in ones hands and feet, resulting in symptoms like pain, numbness or tingling.

    Symptoms can be reversible. In some cases, your chemotherapy regime needs to be adjusted to avoid permanent damage to the nerves.

    Top Symptoms:
    muscle aches, distal numbness, pain in both hands, pain in both feet, numbness
    Primary care doctor
  10. 10.Fibromyalgia

    Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes widespread pain, tenderness, and fatigue.

    Fibromyalgia is generally a lifelong condition

    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, arthralgias or myalgias, anxiety, depressed mood, headache
    Symptoms that always occur with fibromyalgia:
    arthralgias or myalgias
    Primary care doctor

Foot Numbness Treatments and Relief

Ultimately, foot numbness is not normal and should not be ignored. Fortunately, there are several options for treatment, but, with such a wide range of causes, treatments can vary greatly. There is no "one size fits all" treatment, but relief is often available through a variety of measures.

Home remedies may be appropriate, but it is important to contact your doctor if you experience the following:

  • Significant trauma to the leg, knee, or foot
  • Ongoing or recurring numbness
  • If you know you have diabetes, multiple sclerosis, or fibromyalgia

If the foot numbness symptoms seem to be related to a particular event that is minor and easily identifiable, then taking steps at home to minimize the issue may be sufficient. If, however, the foot numbness is unexplainable or associated with other symptoms, then advanced treatments may be required.

At-home foot numbness treatments:

  • Rest, elevation, and ice: Simple, at-home steps like these can help relieve numbness from isolated, minor incidents [2, 5, 6, 7]. Wearing appropriate footwear and minimizing athletic activity can also help reduce foot numbness symptoms [5, 6, 7].
  • Medicines such as NSAIDs or steroids can reduce inflammation and help minimize numbness [4, 5, 12].
  • Maintaining a proper diet is a critical step to ensure appropriate vitamin intake. Adhering to a gluten-free diet will help control the effects of Celiac disease [13].

Professional foot numbness treatments:

  • Physical therapy: Working with a qualified specialist can help prevent further nerve damage and reduce numbness [11, 14, 15]. Low impact exercise such as swimming is often recommended [15].
  • Surgical procedures: Operative procedures may be required for significant trauma to the knee, shin, or foot [3, 4].

Even if your foot numbness symptoms appear to dissipate on their own, it is important to remember that they happen for a reason. Maybe the cure is simply avoiding the tight shoes you wore last night, but more complex conditions could be influencing your foot numbness, so it is important to seek help from a medical professional if necessary.

FAQs About Foot Numbness

Here are some frequently asked questions about foot numbness.

Can sciatica cause numbness in the feet?

The sciatic nerve begins in the lower back and extends through the leg to the foot. Damage to the sciatic nerve, either through trauma or extended pressure from body positioning, can result in sciatica and a numbing sensation in the foot. Treatments will likely be designed to improve mobility and limit stress.

Is my diabetes causing foot numbness?

Diabetes affects the body in a variety of ways and can trigger several nerve disorders. As time with the disease extends or with poor sugar (glycemic) control, nerve damage throughout the body can develop, causing neuropathy, and leads to numbing of the foot [6, 9]. Nerve disorders may result in no symptoms at all or affect any of the extremities or organ systems.

What causes numbness on the top of the foot?

The likely culprit is nerve damage. When the peroneal nerve, which is a branch of the sciatic nerve, is damaged, the foot can feel numb or tingly [4, 16]. Damage is commonly caused by trauma to the leg or knee or from poor body positioning such as crossing the legs or sleep positions that put pressure on the knee.

How do you improve circulation in your feet?

There are several at-home steps that can help improve circulation. Elevating and stretching the foot are two easily followed options [2, 5, 6, 7]. Improving overall health by stopping smoking, performing low impact exercise (such as swimming) and maintaining healthy levels of blood pressure and cholesterol can also help.

Why do my feet suddenly go numb?

Sudden foot numbness is often caused by compression of the nerves or poor circulation. Wearing ill-fitting shoes, for example, can put strain on the joints and nerves of the foot. Certain diseases, such as diabetes, damage nerves as well [6, 7]. Crossing your legs and other body positions that limit blood flow lead to numbness.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Foot Numbness

  • Q.Have you ever been diagnosed with a psychiatric issue, such as depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, or anxiety disorder?
  • Q.While lying down on a firm surface, keep both legs straight. Have a friend slowly raise one leg at a time by lifting your ankle into the air. Do you have pain in that leg before fully raising it to a perpendicular position? (This is called the straight leg test.)
  • Q.Do any of your body parts (e.g., toes, hands, ears) feel cold?
  • Q.Are you having any difficulty walking?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our foot numbness symptom checker to find out more.

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Foot Numbness Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced foot numbness have also experienced:

    • 4% Hand Numbness
    • 3% Lower Leg Numbness
    • 3% Lower Back Pain
  • People who have experienced foot numbness had symptoms persist for:

    • 37% Less Than a Day
    • 27% Over a Month
    • 19% Less Than a Week
  • People who have experienced foot numbness were most often matched with:

    • 42% Restless Legs Syndrome (Rls)
    • 42% Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome
    • 14% Morton Neuroma
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

A.I. Health Assistant

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  2. Foot Health. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated October 4, 2017. MedlinePlus Link.
  3. Whitney KA. Overview of Foot Problems. MSD Manuals. Updated March 2018. MSD Manuals Link.
  4. Shelat AM. Common Peroneal Nerve Dysfunction. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated August 7, 2017. MedlinePlus Link.
  5. Whitney KA. Damage to the Nerves in the Foot. MSD Manuals. Updated March 2018. MSD Manuals Link.
  6. Diabetic Neuropathy. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. NIDDK Link.
  7. Take Care of Your Feet for a Lifetime. National Diabetes Education Program. Published September 2014. NDEP Link.
  8. Kormos W. What Causes My Feet to Suddenly Become Numb? Harvard Medical School: Harvard Health Publishing. Published May 2018. Harvard Health Publishing Link.
  9. Peripheral Neuropathy Fact Sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Updated August 16, 2018. NINDS Link.
  10. Skerrett PJ. Vitamin B12 Deficiency Can Be Sneaky, Harmful. Harvard Medical School: Harvard Health Publishing. Published January 10, 2013. Harvard Health Publishing Link.
  11. Levin MC. Numbness. Merck Manual Consumer Version. Updated November 2016. Merck Manual Consumer Version Link.
  12. Prasad S, Ewigman B. Acute Gout: Oral Steroids Work as Well as NSAIDs. Journal of Family Practice. 2008;57(10):655-657. NCBI Link.
  13. Celiac Disease. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. NIDDK Link.
  14. Rubin M. Polyneuropathy. Merck Manual Consumer Version. Updated July 2018. Merck Manual Consumer Version Link.
  15. Exercise + Physical Therapy for Neuropathy. The Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy. Foundation For PN Link.
  16. Sciatica. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Johns Hopkins Medicine Link.