What Causes Numbness In Feet When Cycling?

Have you ever gone for a bike ride and noticed your feet feeling numb?

It’s an uncomfortable situation that can be caused by many different factors.

From poor-fitting shoes to improper cleat positioning, there are several reasons why you may experience numb toes or feet when cycling.

In this article, we’ll explore the various causes of numbness in feet while cycling and what you can do to address them.

So if you’re ready to get back on the saddle without the discomfort of tingling toes, let’s get started!

5 Reasons For Numb Toes While Cycling

As someone who’s been cycling for over 10 years, I know firsthand how numb toes and feet can ruin a ride.

There are several reasons why you may experience this unpleasant sensation while cycling, but the 5 most common causes are poorly fitted shoes, poor bike fit, poor cleat positioning, type of socks you wear, and cycling technique.

1. Poorly Fitted Shoes

One of the most common causes of numbness in feet while cycling is poorly-fitting shoes.

Having too-tight or wrong-sized shoes can cause uncomfortable pressure on nerves and muscles in the foot, leading to numbness.

When I first started cycling, I made the mistake of buying a pair of shoes that were too small for my feet.

Although they felt snug at first, after a few rides my toes began to go numb.

Ill-fitting shoes can also lead to poor circulation that restricts essential oxygen from reaching your toes, which further contributes to numbness.

portrait of male cyclist cycling shoes

It’s important for cyclists to have properly fitting shoes in order to prevent any potential discomfort and pain due to improper gear.

A good quality pair of cycling shoes should provide adequate support, cushioning, and breathability for longer rides without causing unnecessary discomfort or pain.

Taking time to find a well-fitted pair of cycling shoes can make all the difference between an enjoyable ride and one riddled with numbness caused by ill-fitting footwear.

2. Improper Bike Fit

A poor bike fit can be a major cause of numbness in the feet when cycling.

A poor fit occurs when the rider’s frame size, handlebar height, and reach are not properly adjusted for the individual’s body type. It is also important to ensure that you have the right-sized shoes and cleats.

If your shoes and/or cleats do not fit properly, it can lead to discomfort or even injury as you ride.

To prevent this from happening, it is essential to get professionally fitted before hitting the road with your new bicycle.


During a fitting session, an experienced technician will work with you to find the best fit possible based on your body shape and size.

They’ll measure you up, adjust saddle position and handlebars where necessary, and make sure that your pedals are correctly positioned relative to your foot size.

This ensures that your bike fits like a glove so that all pressure points are minimized while pedaling.

3. Poor Cleat Positioning

Cleat positioning is a vital component of cycling comfort, as incorrect cleat placement can cause numbness and discomfort in the toes.

This is because incorrect cleat placement may cause discomfort or even pain in the foot that could be causing nerve compression and resulting numbness.

Poor cleat position often results from a misalignment between the foot and pedal interface, which leads to uncomfortable pressure on certain parts of the foot.

If this pressure persists for long enough, it can start to affect nerves in your lower extremities and result in tingling or numbness in your feet.


It is generally recommended that the center of the cleat should be positioned just behind the ball of the foot for optimal comfort and efficiency while cycling.

Too far forward, however, and cyclists will observe an increase in pressure under the ball of the foot where the nerves are especially sensitive to compression.

In order to accomplish this, riders might take advantage of a bike fit service with a professional who can help adjust their cleat position.

4. Wrong Socks

Socks provide an essential layer of protection between your feet and your shoes.

Not just any kind of sock will do; purchasing the right type can be the difference between a comfortable and enjoyable day or one filled with foot pain and blisters.

A good sock should fit properly, remain comfortable over time, and keep your feet from becoming too hot or cold.

The type of sock that you wear should not bunch up or be too bulky as this can create pressure points in your shoes, causing discomfort and even exacerbating existing foot issues.

It’s also important to find a sock that keeps your feet at the right temperature—not too hot or cold.


Socks that are too hot could cause swelling, more pressure points, and chafing; on the other hand, socks that don’t provide enough heat could lead to poor blood circulation resulting in cold feet and pain due to frostbite.

The sock should not be too tight so it constricts blood flow, nor too loose so it bunches up around the ankle area – both of these scenarios can have adverse effects on circulation.

To ensure comfort each day, invest in quality socks that won’t compromise your feet’s well-being.

5. Poor Cycling Technique

Achieving the optimal cycling technique can help prevent numbness in the feet.

Becoming efficient with your bike technique is key to reducing discomfort while pedaling.

When you first start out, focus on mastering your pedal stroke. It’s important to understand how to move smoothly and efficiently through each phase of the cycle.

To ensure proper pedaling technique on a climb, it helps to maintain a consistent cadence within a range that keeps enough pressure off the balls of your feet.

This can be achieved by adopting an appropriate gear selection prior to initiating the climb.

cyclist riding in town

The most efficient way of climbing is focusing on light and quick pedal strokes so that your feet never have too much or too little weight applied to them.

It is important to keep a rhythm going throughout, rather than pushing too hard and then needing to ease off for recovery time at points during the climb.

Taking regular breaks and stretching will help to work out any accumulated tension before continuing with the ride.

Practicing this type of pacing whilst in control of your effort levels should result in maximum performance without strain or fatigue on key muscle groups such as those in your calves, hamstrings, and glutes.

How To Prevent Numb Toes Or Feet While Cycling

Numb toes or feet while cycling can be an uncomfortable and even dangerous experience.

Fortunately, there are ways to address this issue quickly and effectively without necessarily needing to understand its cause.

Below are 4 easy ways to address numb toes or feet while cycling.

Make Sure Your Shoes Fit

Choosing the right cycling shoes is a must to ensure maximum performance and comfort while riding.

It’s important to make sure you have extra wiggle room for your toes, as they can swell over the course of a long ride.

The soles should also be comfortable with no pressure points once they are on your feet. For instance, if you feel tightness or sharp pain when trying them on in the store, then they might not be the right fit.

Additionally, materials like leather that are designed not to stretch much should still be comfortable when you first put them on – they don’t need time to “break-in” before being worn.

For even more customization, consider speaking with an expert at your local bike shop about cleat-pedal combinations for better power transfer and foot security.


As properly fitted shoes lead to good bumpless leg movement during pedaling, it’s worth the investment in time and effort for quality bike shoes and accessories that fit correctly.

In this way, you’ll be fully equipped with an optimum setup for cyclists of all skill levels – from beginner to advanced – so make sure that your shoes fit!

The best way to ensure comfort is by having an expert in-store measure your feet if possible.

But if you’re shopping online, then read reviews carefully and check the sizing chart before purchasing a pair of cycling shoes.

When trying them out for yourself at home, they should feel snug but not tight – there should be enough room around your toes so they don’t feel cramped.

Do Some Warm Up And Stretching

I never used to stretch before or after a ride, but that all changed when I started experiencing pain and numbness in my feet.

After talking to an experienced cyclist, they suggested doing some simple stretches and rolling my feet with a tennis ball or roller to help reduce the pain and improve circulation.

So I decided to give it a try.

At first, I was surprised at how much better I felt after just one session.

I could really feel the difference in my feet – the tightness had gone away and there was no more numbness. My foot was also able to bend more freely without any discomfort.

The first step is to stretch out your leg muscles, focusing on those around the knee joint that is most affected by pedaling.


This will help increase circulation in the lower legs and help reduce any cramped feeling.

After stretching, roll any tight areas you may have found during the stretching process with a foam roller or similar device.

This helps release tension and break up knots which can lead to discomfort while riding.

In addition to stretching and rolling, foot massage can also help improve blood flow in the feet while cycling.

Using either a handheld massager or using kneading motions with your hands can both provide relief from cramping and soreness in the lower legs.

Support Your Arches

The right support for your arches is essential to having a comfortable and efficient ride.

Replacing the stock low-profile footbed in most cycling shoes with an over-the-counter option like SOLE moldable insoles and Solestar can help you achieve optimal arch alignment, preventing arch collapse which increases efficiency and removing pressure points from the sole that causes nerve compression or circulation loss.

Depending on what problems you’re experiencing, they may be able to recommend specialized insoles that offer additional comfort and support.

Here are a few tips on how to do this:

  • Invest in shoes that have arch supports built into them. Look for shoes with lightweight cushioning and extra padding around the heel and midsole area. This will provide added comfort and help keep your arch supported during long rides.
  • Arch inserts or insoles are designed specifically to add extra support for your feet when walking or running. They can also offer additional cushioning for cyclists who ride longer distances.
  • Try several different types of inserts until you find one that suits your needs best. Different materials such as foam, gel, or even air pockets can make all the difference in providing adequate arch support while riding.

Get A Professional Bike Fit

Getting a professional bike fit is one of the best investments you can make in your cycling experience.

After suffering from numbness and tingling in my feet during long rides, I decided to take the plunge and get fitted professionally.

This process includes a physical assessment of your mechanics and foot structure by a certified bike fitter, which helps detect any specific details that may be causing pain or discomfort.

Paying close attention to the level of the seat and any potential leg-length discrepancies can minimize stress on your hips, back, and nerves as you ride.

Professional bike fittings are generally around $200-$500 depending on the shop and level of customization needed.

Investing in a professional bike fitting not only helps reduce discomfort but can also improve safety by preventing injuries caused by incorrect positioning of parts on the bicycle itself.

Final Thoughts

Numbness in the feet while cycling can be caused by a number of factors.

Making sure you have the right type of shoe for your style of riding is crucial as it can help ensure proper foot placement and support to reduce discomfort.

Doing simple exercises before or after rides can also help strengthen the muscles needed to prevent numbness from occurring.

Wearing the right socks specifically designed for cycling will provide extra cushioning and comfort to keep your feet feeling fresh even after long rides.

Finally, adjusting cleats and making modifications to your bike such as adding handlebar tape are both great ways to reduce any feelings of numbness when pedaling.

Frequently Asked Questions

When making cleats adjustments, you should focus on how much pressure is put onto your foot with each pedal stroke.

You’ll want to be sure that there isn’t too much or too little pressure being applied as either extreme could lead to problems like numbness in your feet after riding for an extended period of time.

To get started on optimizing your bike for reduced numbness, consider these four steps:

  1. Adjusting your Saddle Position: Make sure that when you’re sitting on the saddle, your leg should be almost fully extended at the bottom of each pedal stroke. If not, try lowering or raising the seat until this extension is achieved.
  2. Pedal Adjustment: You may need to make both horizontal and vertical adjustments here by either moving them closer together or further apart depending on what’s comfortable for you.
  3. Handlebar Adjustments: An important factor in providing support during long rides is having a handlebar that’s properly adjusted so that it fits with your body type and riding style – experiment with different heights and angles until you find one that works best for you!
  4. Setting up proper foot positioning will help keep pressure off sensitive areas such as toes and heels while pedaling. Ensure that cleats are positioned correctly so they don’t cause any discomfort or pain while being used; if necessary, purchase new ones for better performance.

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