Elliptical Trainer Sleepy Foot Syndrome

Have you ever been striding away on your elliptical trainer, getting into a great workout, and then realize that one of your feet has gone numb all of a sudden? It's no fun and is a great way to break your concentration and ruin what was otherwise a terrific workout. Sometimes your foot throbs so much you need to cut your elliptical trainer workout short to walk off the numbness.

First, take heart in knowing that you are not alone. There are many people out there just like you who suffer from the same problem! This article will reveal why this happens and give you some tips for dealing with it.

It does seem unusual that your foot would fall asleep while you're standing upright. This usually happens while either lying or sitting, but have you ever stood in the same position in a line that isn't moving? This is the perfect condition for getting numb feet. The prolonged pressure on the nerves in your feet can cause what is known as paresthesia or as is commonly referred to as "pins and needles" or a tingling sensation.

Using an elliptical trainer is very similar to standing motionless in one place. The low impact nature of an elliptical trainer is the result of your feet never leaving the foot pedals. While great for your knees and other joints, it's what can cause your feet to lose sensation.

It's important to wear well-cushioned athletic footwear when exercising on an elliptical trainer, but this may not be enough. The root cause of the problem is the constant pressure of your body weight on the nerves in your feet.

The first thing to do is make sure that you don't have an underlying medical condition such as diabetes or Morton's neuroma that is causing your problem. So get checked out by your doctor to eliminate these possibilities. You should also evaluate your athletic footwear and be sure that it fits properly. There should be adequate room for your toes in the toe box of the shoe.

There are a few things you can try to help alleviate toe numbness on the elliptical:

1. Relieve the pressure -- remember to wiggle your toes every so often during your workout. Another technique is heel-to-toe flexion of your foot. Simply rock your foot from heel to toe on the foot pedal of the elliptical trainer as you exercise. Most people usually experience numbness in one of their feet, but if you're having numbness with both, then perform these movements with both feet. Also try to remember to do these movements throughout your workout, before numbness sets in.

2. Change pedaling direction -- try alternating forwards and backwards every few minutes while pedaling. This will change the pressure emphasis from the ball of your foot to the heel.

3. Try an incline -- I've noticed some improvement when switching to a Precor elliptical trainer that has an incline. For me, elliptical foot numbness seems to be worse when using a Life Fitness elliptical with a very flat elliptical arc.

4. Avoid excessively long workouts -- the optimal range for fat burning and moderate cardio conditioning on an elliptical trainer is between 30 to 45 minutes. Longer than 45 minutes may be longer than most people need. It's usually more productive to do two 30-minute workouts on an elliptical trainer spread out during the day than one extended workout for an hour.

The longer you stay on an elliptical trainer, the greater the chance that your feet may go numb from the constant pressure.

5. Loosen your shoe laces -- your toes need to be able to move around a bit inside your athletic shoes while on an elliptical trainer. Try to lace your shoes a bit looser than you would for playing basketball or for running. Don't cinch the laces tightly across the instep of your foot, but be sure you tie them up tightly enough at the top so your shoes don't slip off your feet. Be careful!

Though annoying, you can shake off the effects of Elliptical Trainer Sleepy Foot Syndrome and in many cases avoid it altogether with these simple techniques.


It has been shown that elliptical trainers with "articulating" foot pedals have reduced numb feet in certain trainees. Articulating foot pedals is just a fancy name for foot pedals that are free to rotate about a center pin, much like a bicycle pedal. This in turn causes you to shift your body weight from your heel to your toe as you stride (this is exactly what the article above recommends by performing heel-to-toe flexion with stationary pedals).

Most front drive ellipticals such as those from Sole Fitness. Smooth Fitness has several ellipticals with pivoting foot pedals that move in sync with your ankles.