Top of Foot Ache and Numbness

“During running (or walking) the top of my foot aches and goes numb”.

The first, easiest thing to check is how tight you are tying your shoes! There is a nerve on the top of the foot called the dorsal cutaneous (see photo)

Dorsal Cutaneous Nerve of the Foot

 that supplies sensation to your skin in this area. It can easily be pinched by having laces too tight, and sometimes from wearing sandals that bind too hard over the top of the foot. If your shoes fit properly, you should be able to keep laces in contact with foot and not have your foot slide around in the shoe. Custom orthotics or over the counter inserts can help create a more conforming foot bed to stabilize the foot if there is still an unstable situation with a proper fit.

Another cause may be a compartment syndrome or irritation of muscle compartments of the lower leg. You may notice tenderness to touch on the front and side of the shin. These muscles commonly become inflamed  and overused with downhill running, fast walking, over-striding, or other training errors. The quickest and best solution is to get manual physical therapy treatment to mobilize tight fascia and connective tissue that may extend into the upper leg, lower leg, and especially into the foot. This can be another indication for trigger point dry needling to areas of the lower leg and top of foot for what is usually a rapid, lasting result.

Using “the stick” or roller over the muscles of the front of the lower leg (do the calf muscles while you are at it) and gentle active stretching can also help. In addition to our skilled mobilization of joints and connective tissue, you can gently massage and mobilize the areas of your lower leg, top of foot, and between your toes. We also emphasize strengthening of your push off mechanism usually by single leg calf raises with hands pushing upward against a wall with opposite leg flexed up as in a full stride.

If simply loosening your laces and getting more serious about stretching and self massage doesn’t resolve the issue, you should come in for an evaluation and treatment. There are other things that could be going on that we are trained to recognize and address.

Questions? Email us at or give us a call (262-695-3057) if you would like to make an appointment or speak to a physical therapist.

bodymechanics locations

807 N. Jefferson
Milwaukee, WI 53202  (map)

1177 Quail Court | Suite 200
Pewaukee, WI 53072  (map)