How to Lace Running Shoes for Numb Toes and Other Conditions

Natalie Cecconi
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Why Does the Feet Numb?

I have received so many questions from readers asking how to lace their shoes in a way that will prevent numb toes. The official name for this condition is peripheral neuropathy and it occurs when the blood flow in the legs decreases.

Numbness or lack of feeling in the feet is usually caused by a sciatica which is when the sciatic nerve becomes irritated. This nerve runs from the lower back, through the buttock all the way down to the ankle.

The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the human body and its main role is to transport sensation from the hips, legs and feet down to the lower extremities.

Because of its location, the sciatic nerve is a common site of pressure – just like in the case of leg cramps and numb toes – which leads to increased pain and the feeling of numbness in the foot.

You can prevent this condition from happening by adjusting your running shoes and lacing them in a way that takes pressure off the sciatic nerve.

So here is how you lace your running shoes for numb toes and other conditions impacting your feet.

One way to lace your running shoes for numb toes is to start from the toe box. The goal is to take pressure off the big toe, which is the most common site of nerve damage.


Feeling numbness in your toes is never a fun experience. It can range from simply annoying to downright debilitating and painful.

If the numbness is caused by damage to the nerves in your feet, it’s called neuropathy. If this condition occurs because of a problem like diabetes or circulation issues, it’s called peripheral neuropathy.

As with many conditions that can affect you and your feet, numbness can be difficult to manage.

After all, it’s hard to stay active when your toes feel like they’re poking you in the shins or burning with each step.

Having a numb toe or two doesn’t necessarily mean you’re headed into a world of pain, as long as you recognize the signs of neuropathy and take the right action to address it.

Depending on the extent of the injury, you may need to make adjustments to your workout routine to counter effects of a numb toe.

Here are some remedies that can help you take control of the situation so you can stay active.

How to Lace Running Shoes for Numb Toes and Toe Pain?

Every runner knows what it’s like to lace up a new pair of running shoes. It’s hard to get them tight enough at first, but then after a few runs they loosen up and it feels like your feet are swimming in the mud.

And once your shoes loosen up, a host of problems can arise including blisters, numb toes, aching arches, and even more serious conditions such as metatarsalgia.

There are a couple of solutions to solve this problem, and they all begin with learning how to lace your running shoes.

There are two shoe laces on one shoe. The top lace is the one that gets tied, while the bottom lace goes under the tongue.

The one way to prevent the shoe from loosening up is, of course, to tie your shoes very tight at first.

However, this strategy is not particularly comfortable or practical. Let’s look at the best approaches for how to lace running shoes so they feel comfortable while fitting securely.

If you’re having trouble with a specific area, like your heel, one option is to run with heel locks.

These are small plastic sleeves that slip over the shoe laces to prevent the heel from slipping.

If your arch feels sore you can use a different set up. Place the lace under the two center eyelets.

Numb Toes

Being overweight puts extra pressure on your joints. This can lead to inflammation called bursitis that especially affects your toes.

You may not be able to fit into shoes that are the right size. Another, and more common, remedy for bunions is to buy shoes in a larger size to make room for your toes to have more room.

This, however, is not ideal. It actually makes things worse.

Between the space between your big toe and the toe next to it, there is supposed to be a piece of soft tissue teaming with capillaries and nerves. The stretching of the area compromises this network and can lead to bursitis as previously mentioned.

The pointy toe box, or any toe box for that matter, does not allow any soft tissue to be present there. Between your toes is meant to be empty.

Instead, bunions are made worse by repeated and unending pressure on the area. A shoe that doesn’t fit, or a too-narrow toe box, is going to put way too much pressure on your toes.

Shoes designed for people with bunions (or painful toes) have a wider toe box ideally designed to accommodate the wider area affected by bunions.

These shoes will help spread the pressure over a wider area and allow you to keep walking without pain.

Toe Pain

Numbness in toes when running is a condition that is not associated with any particular running shoe. A lot of different factors can lead to numbness and toe pain, like size of your shoes, tightness of laces, or physical condition of your feet.

If you have any numbness and / or pain in your feet while running, it is recommended to talk to your running coach or your doctor before buying new running shoes.

On a different note, if your running shoes fit you properly, the right way to lace your shoes might be to lace them up just loose enough to enable your toes to be free to move around in your shoes freely.

Most runners are aware of the different ways they can lace up their running shoes, but are not really sure which way to go.

Lacing your running shoes to make them easier to take on and off is more effective if you want a quick change of shoes on race day.

Lacing your running shoes to make them more comfortable and reduce the chance of blisters is ideal if you like your shoes to fit looser.

Other Shoe Lacing Techniques

To Relieve Numbness, Pain, and General Discomfort.

Tie knots in your laces.

Not only is proper lacing technique important to relieve pressure points on the feet, but so are small adjustments you make to your shoe laces.

Shorten the laces and tie a half-knot in them.

Insert the lace into the shoe and tie your normal knot.

Doing this should relieve pain on the top of your foot.

Another way you can use knotting for foot relief is to tie a smaller knot on top of your shoe. This will create a widened place on top of your shoes and help relieve pressure on the top of your foot.

Use a shoe horn.

First time we lace up a pair of brand new pair of shoes, it can be a tough task.

It doesn’t take long before your fingers begin to cramp up to the point where you end up making mistakes while lacing and tightening your shoes.

A simple solution to this problem is to use a shoe horn. A shoe horn removes the struggle of lacing a shoe by giving you some leverage and being easy to use.

If you have a hard time lacing your shoes for any reason, try using a shoe horn with a handle that bends to fit your hand.

High Arches

Flat Feet, Bunions and Heel Pain.

With so many different running shoes on the market, it is not difficult for you to find ones that fit your specific feet type and running style.

If you haven’t run in a while or if you’re a novice runner, it is best that you start off with a neutral-cushioned shoe.

You experience mild pronation when you’re running, meaning your feet land on the ground with a slight inward roll. If you’re a neutral or underpronator, you must be sure to choose shoes with a sufficient amount of stability cushioning.

If your arch is higher than normal, then you should go for shoes with a sufficient amount of support. If your arch is normal or flat, then you may go for more flexible shoes.

If your heels tend to roll inwards when you’re running, you’re likely to be a mild to moderate overpronator. You can use motion control shoes to correct overpronation.

Since each running style requires different types of shoes, wearing the wrong shoes can result in injury or discomfort when running. So if you’re not sure which running shoe is right for you, talking to a professional athletic shoe store is a good option.

Shoes That Feel Too Tight

If you have ever had shoes that are a bit tight, you know that it can be very uncomfortable, and can sometimes have you limping and out of action.

Shoes that are not the right size can cause stress on your toes and discomfort as they rub up against the inside of the shoe. After just one day, this can start to get painful. Over time it can cause numbness and irritation, strain the nerves, stiffen up your feet, and even develop into a stress fracture. Taking the time to insulate the part of the shoe that is causing the problems is one way to take immediate relief and avoid a serious injury.

Insulating shoes to relieve pressure on your toes and soles is a great way to get relief from pain in your feet caused by ill-fitting shoes. There are a number of easy to use insoles you can buy to help relieve any pain from your shoes including products such as Foot Petals Pointy Toe Insoles, Superfeet Green Insoles, and Sof Sole Full Insoles. Whether you just want to make your shoes feel bigger or to relieve pressure from special conditions such as plantar fasciitis, a well designed insole will be a great start to making your shoes feel more comfortable.

Slipping Heel

My favorite running shoes are my Adidas Supernova Glide 1. However, even after a couple hundred miles, my heel still slipped around in the shoes. The shoes weren’t immediately noticeable when walking, but when running quickly, it has caused some problems. I turned to the running community to find out what to do.

Apparently, I’m not the only one, as I found out. A quick Amazon search brought back results of multiple products designed to prevent slipping heels. However, the most popular solution to slippage was either inserting a foam heel insert or double-lacing the shoes.

I decided to go with a foam heel insert mostly because they’re easy to slip in; you just put the heel inside the insert and fill the gap with the padding. No fuss, no muss.

Double-lacing was also an option, but they’re a bit trickier to put on. You have to double-knot the laces on top of each other, and that adds more steps to something that I’m already trying to avoid in the morning … tying my running shoes.

Narrow Foot

You will certainly notice if you or anyone you live with has a narrow foot. I did. 🙂

I also noticed that the most common narrow footed shoe complaint was about the big toe feeling "numb" or asleep in the shoe. And I am not talking about low-cut or summer type shoes. I am talking about regular everyday shoes that many people wear all year round.

I had the same complaint and would start to get it towards the end of my run. I didn’t exactly have numb toes, but I felt like something was missing near the end of the run. I could tell it was my big toe because it would "fall asleep" and not want to move. I also noticed that when I would get out of bed in the morning, the big toe would be asleep too.

I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice. But what I did in my own situation was to buy a pair of shoes about a half size smaller than I probably should have. Even more importantly, on every run, I gave my shoes 1-2 miles to slowly adapt to my foot.

I also did this by adding a thin insole to the one shoe and this helped a lot. It gave my foot just a little more room in the front and back of the shoe, which made my big toe happier. It also helped spread my toes out better across the shoe length.


It’s not an instant fix, but the right type of runner’s knot can help reduce pressure and increase circulation to where it’s needed, whether that’s your shin or your toes.

Whenever you use a pair of lace runners for the first time, it’s worth experimenting with different knots until you find one that works. And if nothing else, learn how to tie a reef knot, so you can tie almost anything.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this read on How to lace running shoes.

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