I think I’ve reached the end of my patience with trying to deal with numb feet while cycling in the colder months.
I’ve had two bike fits, tried fairly loose fitting shoes, tried more snug fitting shoes, thick socks, thin socks, cleats far back and a bit further forwards, stock insoles, big arch insoles, small arch insoles, custom insoles and nothing seems to work.
I believe it’s circulation rather than nerve as it goes away completely in the summer and heat pads in my shoes can help. I’ve also had a couple of chillblanes on one of the more affected toes which I believe are a result of lack of circulation.
It doesn’t have to be particularly cold though - at 12c I’m still wearing winter socks and overshoes!
I guess I’m looking for someone else that might have been through something similar that could point me in a certain direction.
I’ve debated seeing a podiatrist but finding someone that knows their stuff feels like a bit of a minefield. Do I need to find someone that specialises in cycling?
Oh a 1000%. I have terrible circulation, at a certain point it’s just pain management. I wear med thick wool socks and neoprene toe covers up to 60f. Helps but still not like summer. I also have lake shoes which are pretty thick.
Do you generally have cold feet? And what’s it like when you jump in the shower after a ride?
Ive got circulation problems caused by chemotherapy. When the drugs were at their strongest and the nerves were completely wrecked I would have to make sure there was no wind getting in close the toe went and wear thick neoprene overshoes. Now treatment is over I have managed to ditch the thick over shoes (mid summer) but I still keep the toe wents shut. Ive kinda got use to my feet being like blocks of ice when my body is too hot
I get chilblains on my toes pretty easily, but after many years I’ve managed to figure out what works for me. I basically just use the chemical toe warmers any time I think the temperature is going to be slightly chilly. I wear wool socks (Darn Tough), and put the toe warmers on TOP of my feet. I will also wear shoe covers, whether it’s the DeFeet sock-type or something more wind-blocking. I’ve also taped up the holes on the soles underneath my insoles when it’s really cold/wet, but haven’t needed to do that this year because I’ve started riding more indoors during the week.
When I come home, I make sure not to warm my feet up too quickly, as that’s a key trigger for chilblains. I keep my socks on for as long as possible, taking them off just before I step in the shower, and I don’t use a super-hot shower to start.
Your feet are always going to be a little bit cold while cycling in relatively cold temperatures, unless you actively heat them or use dedicated winter shoes. Even when pedaling indoors.
Wind chill from speed
Wind chill from pedaling (yes, it’s noticeable)
Extremities naturally get cold during intense exercise because of blood flow is redirected towards the muscles
Cycling shoes are generally designed to shed heat
If your feet don’t go numb during the summer, it’s probably not the shoes.
You might need some heated insoles. Also make sure your shoes are warm before you even put them on. Finally, make sure you keep your core sufficiently warm, as a cold core has a knock-on affect of making your extremities even colder.
See if your Primary Care can give you a referral for a ABI (Ankle Brachial Index) and Toe Pressure test. If its normal, you just have cold feet and damage control is gonna be the answer (toe warmers, wool, overshoes, winter shoes). If its not normal, see a vascular doctor to see if it can be improved.
Thanks! I have a pair of winter boots that didn’t fix the issue on their own in the coldest of temperatures but thinking about it - most of my testing with them was when it was around freezing, I haven’t actually tried since it warmed up a bit. I think I’ll give them a go again and pair them with overshoes when it gets really cold.
Yeah my feet feel like they are always cold this winter! I try and let my temperature equalise a bit before showing but my feet feel like ice cold going into hot when I get in the shower!
I’m glad it’s gotten better for you on the other side!
I had some success with chemical toe warmers and thick neoprene overshoes. They fell off my radar since it warmed up - perhaps I’ll go back to them.
Heated insoles are a thing? Wow, I need to go check this out!
I’ve recently learned this about core and has helped a fair bit, especially with my hands. I’ve gone from dressing to not sweat to dressing to actually feeling warm within a few minutes of cycling.
Thank you, my plan is to speak to a doctor this week so I’ll raise this. This being a more medical issue does concern me, so this is really valuable info.
I tried some from Amazon and they were very thick, ill-fitting and not very warm. Do you have a recommendation?
Real interesting point this. One thing I observed with the pair of low/no arch support insoles I tried was a really pronounced metatarsal button. Perhaps I’ll see if adding one to my higher arch insoles helps.
Oh my, I don’t want to declare success too early but I popped a couple of met domes on my insoles for a 1.5hr session indoors, matching their location to the unsupported insoles that gave me some relief.
Not a hint of tingling in my 11c garage. Real test will be riding outside but I normally experience it mildly on the turbo when it’s cold.
In fact, my feet are sweaty
Ironically, I’d tried met domes before but obviously followed a bad guide (or followed a good one badly) because the location was totally different and it made things worse that time.
@mikehhhhhhh They are sort of a nylon running pant that I have had for a while and actually was going to toss until for whatever reason I decided to put them over my tights and see if they would help. Basically they trap some air around the legs and also protect against the wind. They dry quick and may have some water repellancy but are more on the soft shell side so don’t make a lot of noise like a rain pant would.
You need to keep your blood as warm as possible on the way to you feet. Your legs shouldn’t act as a heat exchanger whilst riding. Cold extremities can also mean you need warmer layers over your core, just as an insulated gilet. The feet shouldn’t feel cramped or compressed as that’ll cut the blood supply off.
Still air is one of these best insulators, this is why down is so good or windproofs work as they trap that still air against the body to keep it warm.
Consider an extra insulated layer over your core to keep it warmer.
Wear brushed windproof (on front) leggings to keep legs warmer
Heated insoles already mentioned. The batteries last about 6 hours
Consider neoprene toe covers over your existing shoes. These can be left on all the time without the faff of overshoes.
Consider mid ride cafe breaks to get warm and have a hot drink.
Limit the length of your rides based on how long it takes for your feet to get really cold and suffer hot aches when they warm up.
If you are stopped at a cafe loosen off your shoes to improve blood flow whilst you warm up.
Have an extra insulation layer to throw on when stopped, so you don’t chill down when not moving.
Have you checked what colour your toes/feet are, both when cold and warm (ideally on the bike in summer winter and off the bike)? Could be Reynaud’s, which causes poor blood flow in the digits and can be very painful.
Also have you tried compression socks? Make sure they give proper all-round compression and are up to the top of your calves.
I’ve poor circulation - heated socks are the best solution I’ve found. I’ve tried numerous socks and combinations of socks with my winter boots, but heated socks inside waterproof socks is the best option I’ve found.
I’ve poor circulation in my hands too, and have stumped up for heated gloves (managed to get the sealskinz ones on offer).
n=1 I find my hands are worse starting off before my core is warm. So I start with the gloves on, turn off (and sometimes on intermittently when my body temp drops). I find my feet are worse towards the end of a spin/ several hours in, so I turn on my socks at that stage until I’m in the shower.