Why Ellipticals Make Your Feel Fall Asleep


Elliptical trainers have been around in the fitness industry for just a bit less time than the Treadmill Sensei has. They first popped back up in the early 1990s (me? the late 1980s) and have taken off like no other piece of equipment before it. While there has been a wide acceptance, and even love, of the elliptical trainer (or the crosstrainer), there has been one nagging question which has plagued people working out on them since the very beginning. Let’s check out the note below from “Christine” to see what that question is.

Take it away, Christine!

Your website is fantastic, and enjoyable, too!

I was almost ready to place an order tonight when I read your comment about getting foot pedals that won’t make your feet numb. I recall that being a real problem for me in the gym, causing me to cut my workouts short. However, none of the specs provided on any of the models I have looked at under $1000 say anything about the footpedals. Can you point me toward some models that have non-numbing foot pedals for $1000 or under? I was most interested in the Ironman Evo1 or any of the elipticals in your best buy section.

Thanks for your website – it is pretty much the ONLY place for reliable information! -Christine


Thanks for your note and I’m glad you were able to get some help from the website. As I mentioned above, having your feet go numb during a longer elliptical workout has been a problem since ellipticals first appeared in gyms. If your workout went longer to 30 minutes you’d generally start to feel a strange tingling in your feet, and if you continued beyond 45 minutes then your feet and toes would go completely number or “asleep.” It was and is a pain for a lot of people and it causes a lot of people to cut their workouts short or to even quit working out on the machines all together.

The problem stems from an inherant flaw in the way a lot of ellipticals are built. The pedals on a lot of ellipticals are set at an unnatural angle to the way we walk and keep your feet completely flat on them during a workout. And what happens when your feet are set unmoving, and with constant pressure on them while you stand? That’s right, they fall asleep! Think about it like standing still in a line for 45 minutes — that constant pressure on your feet will cause you to get the very familiar “pins and needles” sensation known as paresthesia, which comes from prolongued pressure on your nerves (my wife’s Uncle Chris causes this sensation to appear in my head when I’m around him too much).

The funny thing is that what helps your knees and joints on an elliptical (keeping your feet planted) is what causes the elliptical’s biggest problem!

Unfortunately, a lot of elliptical manufacturers are still producing units using some very outdated designs which will still cause your feet to fall asleep while working out on them. Luckily, tho, a number of units are produced which should reduce this effect. Units which have “articulating footpads” are ellipticals which are specifically addressing this problem. As are units which place pedals closer together and/or place them at a slight inward incline.

There are a number of things you can do to further reduce the chances of your feet falling asleep during a workout.

  • Wear comfortable, well padded shoes. This is just basic common sense for any workout and applies to elliptical training as well. Keep your shoes laced up a bit looser than normal. The tighter the shoe the more chance your feet will take a nap during your workout due to lessened circulation.
  • Change the positioning of your feet during the workout. Make sure to move them around on the pedal a bit and wiggle your toes. Believe it or not, this will help and will keep the circulation up on your feet.
  • Keep your workouts shorter and do multiple “sets.” Instead of doing a 1-hour workout, try two 30-minute ones instead. Truthfully, multiple workouts over the course of the day are more effective for weight loss and in keeping you metabolism up for a longer period.
  • Try breaking up your workout with a short period going in reverse. Even if your elliptical won’t track the workout, changing the direction of your workout for a few minutes will work a different set of muscles and the change will help keep your feet from falling asleep by altering where the pressure is falling on them: from the ball to the heel.
  • If your elliptical has an incline option, use it and vary the settings. Changing the degree of your elliptical’s workout arc will help by keeping constant pressure off of one area of your feet.

If your feet keep falling asleep during your workouts, don’t dispair and don’t stop working out…there are things you can do to help yourself, even if you’re stuck on an old Tunturi Elliptical. The most important thing is to keep working out and to get healthy.

-The Treadmill Sensei

Speak Your Mind