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That tingling feeling: five causes of tingling in the toes

That tingling feeling: five causes of tingling in the toes

Margot Manning, intraining podiatrist and running coach

Tingling toes are a common sensation that can be experienced when running as well when you are wearing day-to-day shoes. The main reason for tingling to occur is from pressure on a nerve. Running can cause continual pressure on nerves from long-term repetitive motion and the resultant swelling of feet, which is why tingling toes is a common complaint among runners.

Tingling toes can be the result of a footwear-related issue. If this is the case, they can generally be relieved by:

Underlying injuries

Tingling can also occur because of an underlying injury or issue, so it’s important to know what to look out for. Here are five common injuries that cause tingling in runners:

  1. Neuritis: Inflammation of the nerves that run between the bones at the ball of the feet. This is usually resolved by changing your footwear and lacing.
  2. Neuroma: Thickening of the nerve at the ball of the foot where it fills up the available space and hurts even when not active. Appropriate footwear, podiatry and sometimes surgery are necessary, depending on the progression of the symptoms.
  3. Bursitis: Fluid-filled sacs become enlarged due to pressure between the heads of the metatarsals (long bone of the feet). These sacs fill the space between the bones and put added pressure on the nerves. Appropriate footwear, podiatry and if no resolution, a visit to a sports doctor for cortisone injections may be needed.
  4. Synovitis or joint capsulitis: Inflammation of the fluid within the toe joint, usually from trauma (e.g. landing badly on a rock) or when the head of the metatarsals are driven into the ground. The latter is a biomechanical problem that needs to be addressed with podiatry care. Like bursitis, the increase in size of the joint can put pressure on the adjacent nerve, creating tingling as a secondary symptom.
  5. Plantar plate tear: The plantar plate is a strong fibrous structure that sits beneath each of the joints at the ball of the foot. Its role is to withstand the high loads at these joints and to create stability. If the toes are over extended repetitively or with excessive force (e.g. running up hills), thickening or a small tear can develop in the plantar plate. Over time, the affected toe can drift apart from its adjacent toe, and develop both synovitis and a claw toe. These changes to the joint integrity can lead to subtle tingling of the toes.  

Of the five injuries, plantar plate tears are the least common, but the most misdiagnosed. This is because there can be a combination of symptoms from the other four injuries above.  This can lead to unsuccessful treatment plans and ongoing frustration for the runner.

Whatever the cause of your tingling toes, it’s important not to ignore the issue. If your tingling toes are not relieved by simple footwear or lacing adjustments there may be an underlying injury that is the cause.

Our podiatry team are all runners and understand how frustrating an injury or training set back can be. We can help you get back to running without tingling toes or discomfort as quickly as possible.


Come in and see us at the intraining Running Injury Clinic. For bookings,Book online, call 3367 3088 today or email [email protected]