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Numbness, tingling, burning, or stinging in the toe, foot, or ankle

Numbness is a complete loss of feeling when you touch your skin. It may feel like the part you touch does not belong to you. Tingling is a pins-and-needles feeling that occurs when your foot "falls asleep." An occasional, slight tingling in a foot that lasts only briefly is not generally cause for concern. It is relatively common among bicyclists who ride long distances to develop numbness in the feet for a few minutes to an hour. This often occurs because of tight toe-clip straps. The problem may be prevented by loosening the straps or switching to a step-in shoe-pedal.

Many conditions may cause numbness, tingling, burning, or stinging.

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  • Numbness, tingling, burning, stinging, or pain that occurs between the toes, especially the third and fourth toes, and in the ball of the foot may be caused by a noncancerous growth on nerves in the foot (Morton's neuroma).
  • Numbness, tingling, or pain that begins in your back, moves down your leg and into your foot may be sciatica, caused by a pinched nerve (nerve root compression).
  • Foot and ankle pain that occurs with numbness and weakness that begins in the foot and spreads into the toes may be caused by a pinched nerve in the ankle (tarsal tunnel syndrome).
  • Burning, numbness, or lack of feeling in the feet may be caused by poor circulation to the feet. This is common in people who have diabetes or peripheral arterial disease. Poor circulation may lead to nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy).
  • Burning, pins-and-needles–type pain is common in people who use alcohol regularly because alcohol directly damages the nerves.

Numbness and tingling are more serious when:

  • You have a complete loss of feeling.
  • You have symptoms of decreased blood flow, such as pale, white, blue, or cold skin.
  • You have muscle weakness not caused by pain.
  • Symptoms don't go away.
  • Symptoms go away but keep coming back.
Author Jan Nissl, RN, BS
Editor Susan Van Houten, RN, BSN, MBA
Associate Editor Tracy Landauer
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Gavin W.G. Chalmers, DPM - Podiatry and Podiatric Surgery
Last Updated October 27, 2008

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 27, 2008
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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