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I’ve ridden bikes obsessively all my life, but there was a time a few years ago when I started experiencing numbness in my legs after cycling. Luckily, with research, I was able to pinpoint the causes of this and to nip this in the bud.
In this post, I’ll look at:
- What causes leg numbness after cycling
- A quick overview of leg numbness – what it feels like and what is happening
- 9 tips to help overcome leg numbness
What Causes Leg Numbness After Cycling?
Poor cycling form, cleat placement, or a too-tight closure are common causes of numbness and pain in the legs and feet.
Luckily, even the longest rides can be made more pleasant by measuring your proportions and locating a seat that supports your weight correctly.
Although soreness and numbness after a bike ride are common signs of a successful workout, severe soreness and numbness could indicate a significant problem.
If the blood flow to your pelvic region becomes constricted, having the inappropriate bicycle saddle for your dimensions and body type can cause discomfort and numbness, which can be extremely harmful in the long run if not remedied.
In this article, I’m going to share the nine top tips that worked for me, and have also worked for many other cyclists that have experienced this leg numbness after cycling.
Leg Numbness After Cycling – A Quick Overview
Numbness on the bike can ruin your ride, whether it’s in your hands, groin, or legs.
Numbness can start in your buttocks and spread down your thighs while cycling.
The tingling sensation might sometimes begin between your toes and travel up your legs. A faulty bike fit or ill-fitting shoes are usually blamed for numbness in the lower limbs.
The numbness you get from cycling is similar to when your arm or leg “sleeps.”
Blood flow to nerves can be disrupted by sustained pressure on a body part. The affected nerve then delivers inappropriate sensory information to your brain, causing you to feel numb and tingly.
That numb sensation is called “paresthesia.”
Research has shown how it can be a common condition in cycling. (Source)
When the pressure is alleviated, blood flow is restored, and the nerve reawakens with the irritating “pins and needles” sensation before returning to normal.
The prolonged pressure on certain body parts (legs in this case) that come into contact with your bike is the cause of the paresthesia.
9 Tips To Cure Leg Numbness
Let’s take a look at the nine most important tips for curing leg numbness linked to cycling:
1. Rest (The Right Way)
If your legs feel numb, try to keep off your feet as much as possible.
Lie flat to increase blood flow and relieve pressure on the nerves of your lower body.
Resting is of utmost importance after cycling.
Most bikers don’t want to take rest weeks after injuries. They have to cycle less on a rest week and cycling after taking a break can induce feelings of laziness in a person.
It’s not an enjoyable experience to take breaks as it might break the flow but it’s absolutely necessary.
With that being said, cycling recovery rest weeks are essential since they rejuvenate cyclists. They recover from training and return stronger after the break. You will never achieve peak performance if you do not take time to rest.
When you start to feel numb, it’s even more important to get some rest. Take a day or two off and get your health back to 100 percent.
Remember to listen to your body; algorithms and cycling computer programs have no way of knowing what is happening in our lives (sleep, stress, work, family, etc.).
Stop cycling as soon as you get numbness or tingling in your legs. To promote blood flow to the area, lie down or sit with your legs elevated.
For 10 to 20 minutes, avoid moving your legs. Any tight garments or pants you’re wearing should be loosened or removed.
If you experience more severe and serious symptoms such as nausea, difficulty in breathing, severe leg pain, or loss of consciousness, seek medical help right away.
2. Change Your Cycling Shoes
When you cycle, whether on the road, up a mountaintop, or indoors, your feet rarely touch the earth.
Even so, the shoes can make a significant difference.
Cycling shoes are designed primarily for the sport and can help you improve your performance and overall bicycling experience, whether you’re riding indoors or outside.
Cycling shoes, like running shoes, are highly personalized in terms of fit and comfort. Before you make a purchase, try on a few different designs to see which one is the greatest fit for you.
When choosing a shoe, consider the breadth, toe box, upper height, and comfort of the closing. Numbness can be caused by a shoe that is overly tight or narrow.
If arch support is a feature you’re looking for, keep in mind that shoes with a taller upper have more arch support.
A good cycling shoe that fits you perfectly will make all the difference when it comes to how good and comfortable cycling feels. Additionally, it is less likely to cause numbing in your legs or lower body.
Cycling shoes have the advantage of locking into your bike’s pedals, similar to how ski boots lock onto a ski.
Cycling shoes (and stationary bike shoes) include holes in the bottom where you may attach cleats (metal or rigid rubber plate) to match the holes on your bike pedals.
You’ll want to make sure the closure evenly distributes pressure across the top of the foot, whether you use Boa dials, Velcro straps, or buckle closure.
You may want to tighten the closure as your foot expands during your ride to ensure it isn’t overly tight, which can cause tingling in your toes.
3. Change Your Cleat Placement
The wrong cleat placement can cause a whole list of issues as well, including but not limited to, numbness.
As a starting point for cleat positioning, align the pedal spindle with the ball of your foot.
While this is the most efficient posture for producing power, the pressure of the bony area of the foot against the pedal can sometimes induce numbness.
To fix the problem, move the ball of the foot slightly forward of the pedal spindle and slide the cleat back toward the heel in small increments. If shoe fit isn’t an issue, this should assist with foot numbness.
When the shoes are clicked into the pedals, the balls of the feet are directly over the center of the pedal axles (sometimes called the pedal “spindles”). This is a nice and neutral beginning cleat position that works for most riders.
For around a hundred dollars or less, you can acquire a decent pair of road or mountain bike shoes.
4. Change Your Saddle
The bike seat should appropriately support your weight on the ischial tuberosities, often known as “sit bones,” two bony protrusions in your back. These protrusions are better equipped than the soft tissues between your legs to resist the pressure and impact of riding.
Bicycle seats are available in many different thicknesses, foam densities, and materials. The greatest saddle for you will include firm, supportive, and absorptive foam beneath your sit bones, as well as an empty space in the middle, to avoid pressure near the genital area.
However, more cushion isn’t always better; too much soft foam in the saddle might trigger numbness by filling the area between your thighs and shifting your body weight onto sensitive tissue.
Look for a cushioned, comfy seat that adequately supports your weight on your sit bones.
The optimal shape for your bicycle saddle is determined by your riding style.
A small saddle is appropriate for a racer or professional cyclist to avoid chafing while pedaling at fast speeds. Because these riders ride forward, their weight is equally distributed on their hands and back, requiring less padding to stay comfortable.
On the other hand, if you’re a more casual biker, a broader, softer saddle may be preferable because your upright riding position will put more weight on your back.
Saddles in between these two designs are also available for a more adaptable riding platform.
Rather than moving to a larger, cushier saddle with loads of cushioning, pay attention to the contour of the saddle when looking for the ideal one.
Because the form of the pelvis varies so much from person to person, some people respond better to a curved rather than a flat saddle — or vice versa.
You can also choose a saddle with a cutout or a channel meant to ease pressure on the perineum.
5. Limit The Number Of Miles You Ride Your Bike
One thing people often do is ride their cycle for more time and distance than their bodies can allow. It causes strain and numbness.
Bike riding provides excellent aerobic exercise, is a healthy and cost-effective mode of transportation, and is an excellent way to conduct errands, go sightseeing, and move around town.
However, there is a potential disadvantage to biking: sitting on the bicycle seat might compress nerves and blood vessels in the perineum, a susceptible portion of the body.
Cycling for fitness is often defined as cycling over short distances on a regular basis. Adults should exercise for thirty minutes every day, while youngsters should exercise for sixty minutes.
The average cyclist travels at a speed of 10 to 12 miles per hour (at a moderate pace). Assuming that you don’t perform any other physical activity, you can start with roughly 5 miles each day.
6. Change Your Position On The Saddle
While biking, shift your position in the saddle. When riding, shift forward and backward to relieve pressure on only one area of the perineum.
Experiment with altering your saddle’s angle such that it is slightly slanted downward.
Constantly changing your position on the saddle will shift the weight on different parts of your body which will alleviate the pain and numbness from the parts of the body that it usually happens to.
You will feel a little rejuvenated as well and it will help your body stay in better shape.
7. Wear Bike Shorts
Simply said, wear your cycling shorts.
The chamois inside these shorts are designed to fit next to your skin to minimize chafing, and it’s composed of moisture-wicking and quick-drying fibers.
These shorts are made to maximize a cyclist’s comfort and pleasant riding.
When trying on shorts or liners, choose sizes that are snug but still allow you to move freely. As you bike, the fabric shouldn’t rub against your skin and it also shouldn’t cut off circulation to your legs.
Choose a size that hugs your legs without being too tight.
Riding shorts are an excellent investment and a staple of the cycling community and they will definitely help cure you of your leg numbness.
Cycling shorts are designed to be worn without underwear. Because the shorts have a bacteria-fighting pad inside, they are actually more sanitary when worn alone.
When you wear underwear underneath your cycling shorts, you wind yourself sitting on the underwear seams, which can cause numbness, chafing, and pain — exactly what the shorts are supposed to prevent!
Furthermore, the extra clothes inhibit the shorts’ cooling features from functioning, making you hotter and less comfortable.
8. Apply Ice Or Heat (Or Both)
Ice can help to minimize the swelling that puts pressure on nerves. Several times a day, apply cold compresses or wrapped ice packs to numb legs and feet for 15 minutes at a time.
Ice Packs drastically help the swelling and numbness that your leg might feel from cycling.
Heat can alleviate and ease stiff, painful, or strained muscles that might produce numbness by putting pressure on nerves. Overheating your legs and feet, on the other hand, can exacerbate inflammation and produce discomfort and numbness.
It is advised not to expose your body to any kind of heat for an extended period of time.
9. See A Podiatrist
If nothing is easing the numbness, then it’s probably time for you to see a podiatrist. (Source)
Podiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating problems with the feet and lower limbs. They also help to prevent and treat deformity, keep individuals mobile and active, and manage infections.
Numbness in the foot that is persistent or recurrent should be treated by a professional.
Your podiatrist will conduct a number of tests to find the best treatment choice for the numbness in your feet.
Depending on the seriousness of your case, physical therapy, medication, small lifestyle modifications, or surgery may be prescribed.
Cycling is supposed to be a fun and healthy activity which should be enjoyed. It shouldn’t cause you pain. Therefore, numbness, especially in your legs, should not be ignored. Follow these tips and tricks to cure numbness. Remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!