Sunday, April 18, 2010

Numb Toes

I spend every March, April, and May, sometimes even into June after each year’s March WaterTribe Everglades Challenge with numb toes, usually my 2nd, 3rd, and 4th toes, both feet. This year is no different. I’ve never been able to figure out why. It can’t be good. After a few months the numbness goes away, everything feels normal again, and is soon forgotten.

I have a pretty strong push with my feet during my paddling stroke. My NDK Explorer is outfitted with a foam bulkhead rather than foot pegs, so there is a lot of pressure on my toes, not just the balls of my feet. But Paul says I’ve had numb toes when I’ve paddled my Kruger DreamCatcher in previous EC’s too, and that boat has foot pegs and a rudder.

Some have suggested it has to do with my seat. But my explorer seat has always felt like a perfect fit, it’s almost as if they made the mold using me as the model. My usual posture is not straight legged, my knees are up just enough to have thigh contact with the deck, so I don’t think my seat is putting pressure under my legs/butt.

During the EC, one is often sitting in their kayak for up to 18 hrs, sometimes longer, every day for 5-6 days. There have been years when I’ve sat in it for more than 24 hours without getting out (there are ways, don’t ask:) But yes, this is not normal, so maybe not so surprising to have numb toes.

Anyone got any ideas?

Oh, and these are my new shoes, and they really comfortable shoes.  Probably my new paddling shoes now that the water is warmer.


paddlingOTAKU said...

I had an experience after a very long week paddling the outer banks that sounds similar. My foot went numb. The side of my foot, on lateral side (outside) from mid foot forward and claiming the two outermost toes. It was numb enough that I slipped stepping down a ladder. But surprisingly, the slip, which caused an impact to my bottom - I landed on it - brought the majority of the feeling back. My guess is it is a spinal nerve block of some sort. Probably from sitting for extended periods. Just because your seat is comfortable doesn't mean you don't have a compression or alignment issue. So while I wouldn't recommend falling down a ladder, I would bet a chiropractor could help.


John said...

Have you tried making indentions or cutting holes in the foam padding of your seat under the 'sit' bones? I don't know if your seat is one continuous surface or if you've already done this.

I've had this same problem in the past after MR340 and TWS but have found that by testing various types of foam I can get rid of it. I've found that foam that is too soft can cause it, too much padding can be a bad thing. I've particularly found this to be the case in my Sea Wind, over time I'm going with less and less padding on that seat. (not none, but less than I would have though 3 years ago).

Anonymous said...

Are those the Vibram 5 Fingers?

Silbs said...

That's a tough one. Any compression on the nerves between the spine and the toes can cause this problem. One can only make adjustments in the various areas and see how it works. Consider back support, position in seat, pressure at forward edge of seat, angle of legs over long periods, etc. Good luck. Post a follow up, please.

seabird said...

Rather than numb feet, I've got really bad foot pain - probably tendonitis from pressing too hard on the foot rests. At least that's how I've self-diagnosed. I'm in a Swifty 9.5 doing only flatwater but for hours. Anyone know exercises to help me heal and then prevent? Thanks!

Andrew said...

I bought a used Wilderness Systems Tempest this spring, and while I love the boat and it fits like a glove, I've since developed the same toe numbness issue that you seem to have. I went to physical therapy for months and wasted hundreds of dollars only to have the numbness go away on its own. I took part in the TWS this year and I managed to temporarily stave off numbness by wearing thick-soled water shoes. Unfortunately, my shoes didn't hold up in the muck and I ended up going most of the way barefoot; thus after the first day, the numbness returned. This is just a theory, but I think the real culprit is pressure on the soles. In my case, I brace hard with the balls of my feet, and the numb toes seem to correlate with the regions of my feet that feel the most pressure from the brace (just below the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th toes).