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Cool Day - Numb Toes

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Old 11-03-14, 11:39 AM
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MidwestKid
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Cool Day - Numb Toes

In the past I usually put my bike away for the season with the temps get below 65 or so, but I've this year is going to be different and I want to continue to ride as long as the temps are above freezing.

Saturday was our first real cool day of the season and I headed out on my road bike in the afternoon on a 14 mile ride. I had picked up some warmer cycling clothes and while I was a little cool at first (it was a windy day), I soon felt warm enough. The temperature was 50 degrees F.

When I got home and pulled off my socks (a thicker pair over a thinner pair), the bottom side of my toes were nearly white and quite numb. Oddly, my feet and toes never felt cold on the ride. This surprised me because I don't consider 50 degrees to be that cold.

Since only the bottom side of my toes were numb, is that because the cold was coming through the sole of the shoe and maybe an insole in the shoes might help? I plan to buy a pair of shoe covers soon, but I don't think most people need those until it gets colder.

Anyone have a similar issue?

As a footnote, I've had issues with chilblains on my toes for the past 10 or 15 years and try hard to keep my feet from getting too cold.

Thanks,
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Old 11-03-14, 12:20 PM
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Choice of socks helps but when the temps dip to the 40deg range it is the windchill that sucks the heat out of your feet. Length of ride and temp range will determine your next option--go with boots and platform pedals. Today we have 55deg, as good as it gets for N Michigan above the 45th.
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Old 11-03-14, 12:37 PM
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And tight shoes dont help circulation in your feet.
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Old 11-03-14, 12:45 PM
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I don't ride my road bike once the roads start getting icy, so I've only used them to about -5C, but toe covers work for me. Keep most of the wind and water out. Even with a pair of winter gloves, my hands get cold long before my feet.
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Old 11-03-14, 12:46 PM
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Two things to think about:

Heat-sink, are you riding with clipless pedals? The metal cleat and metal pedals will act as a heat-sink, drawing the heat out of the bottom of your foot. My wife has poor circulation; on cold days with clipless pedals, you can look at the bottom of her foot and see exactly where the cleat is on her shoe - white square. Solutions, use platforms in cold temps or get wool inserts for your shoes.

Shoe covers, I ride shoe covers for temps under 30F - Blitzen I recommend this versus doubled-up socks since this can compress the foot and make circulation worse.

Sidenote, I run extra hot, so my temp range and comfort level are atypical.
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Old 11-03-14, 12:54 PM
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Poor circulation in the legs and feet can be a sign of diabetes. Have you had your fasting blood sugar checked lately (or your A1C)?

Charlie
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Old 11-03-14, 12:58 PM
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^ I concur with the double sock theory. The heat sink thing is interesting ... I've never considered it, but it makes sense.
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Old 11-03-14, 01:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Hypno Toad View Post
Two things to think about:

Heat-sink, are you riding with clipless pedals? The metal cleat and metal pedals will act as a heat-sink, drawing the heat out of the bottom of your foot. My wife has poor circulation; on cold days with clipless pedals, you can look at the bottom of her foot and see exactly where the cleat is on her shoe - white square. Solutions, use platforms in cold temps or get wool inserts for your shoes.

Shoe covers, I ride shoe covers for temps under 30F - Blitzen I recommend this versus doubled-up socks since this can compress the foot and make circulation worse.

Sidenote, I run extra hot, so my temp range and comfort level are atypical.
I'm using Speedplay pedals and haven't thought about them acting like a heat-sink. The ball of my feet over the pedals were fine, however. I'll try some looser socks next time.

I've always been in good health but if I am outside in the winter for very long my feet get really cold and it takes them a long time to warm back up. So while I want to think my circulation is good, there are times I kind of wonder. Cycling should be good for circulation issues. I had lab blood work done last spring and no problems were noted.
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Old 11-03-14, 02:01 PM
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Shoe covers are a good idea when it's chilly. Makes all the difference.
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Old 11-03-14, 02:09 PM
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socks and shoes aside I have to use chemical toe warmers. I put them on top of my sock liners under the outer sock. or if I'm only wearing one sock then over the sock. the instructions say under the toes but it makes more sense and works great on top of my toes. I have to be sure I use shoes with enough room. the slightest squeezing of my feet and the circulation stops. when it gets really cold I use the thicker hand warmers but I have to tape those in place cuz only the toe warmers have an adhesive back
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Old 11-03-14, 02:17 PM
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I'm also for shoe covers, and loosing the extra sock. Might also add hydration is pretty essential to keeping the extremities warm. If you are dehydrated at all, the peripheral capillaries (like the toes) are the first place that will experience reductions in circulation, with very few exceptions.
@Hypno Toad is also right-on about heat sinks.
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Old 11-03-14, 02:56 PM
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Originally Posted by jwarner View Post
I'm also for shoe covers, and loosing the extra sock. Might also add hydration is pretty essential to keeping the extremities warm. If you are dehydrated at all, the peripheral capillaries (like the toes) are the first place that will experience reductions in circulation, with very few exceptions.
@Hypno Toad is also right-on about heat sinks.
Hydration is something I had not though about. I drank multiple glasses of water when I got back home and it took some time to get re-hydrated. I had a couple of drinks on my route, but probably not enough.
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Old 11-03-14, 03:19 PM
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It's about 30 when I start my morning ride (Northern Nevada). I'm wearing cotton crew socks and Fila hightops, just right for the bike (I don't like cleats). My feet don't get very cold but my fingers are like ice. I'm wondering how I did this all last winter, and on an old ('92) clunky, heavy mountain bike.
I did pick up a pair of used hunting mittens off eBay last year and they are toasty warm. The fingers are covered with lite cloth like a glove and will extend outside the mitten part (slit in the palm) but rarely need that. They are less clumsy than thick ski gloves (and warmer).
Wearing summer (slick) bike shorts under long pants and paper clamps (the little black ones with silver squeeze wire tabs) to fold the bottoms. Just bought some Velcro. It's just about time to break out the fleece lined sports pants (they'll need Velcro too).

I have a heavier lined hood/windbreaker that I'll soon have to swap for the hooded sweatshirt and safety green spring bicycle jacket. Okay, we had summer, it's gone, I've felt the cold, now let's bring summer back!

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Old 11-03-14, 03:53 PM
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I've used chemical toe warmers and they work fine. In the past I've used neopreme shoe covers just covering the forefoot. While the top seems to be well insulated, the bottom of the toe area had no insulation at all and that is the part of the foot that got cold. This year I bought full shoe covers and similarly, the toe area was uninsulated and toes were cold. I've purchased several yards of wind block fleece and cut out pieces to fit on the insides in the toe area which I glued in place. This morning was in the upper 30s F at 8:30 AM and my feet never felt a thing so the fleece addition worked fine.
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Old 11-03-14, 04:52 PM
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One thought, what brand/model shoes are you using? Check the soles for a vent, a lot of the clipless shoes' soles have vents near the toes or the ball of the foot area. Learned this with my old Adidas the hard way, much like your situation. But, don't discount the diabetes check and the shoe, or just toe covers, are a good idea.

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Old 11-03-14, 05:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Biker395 View Post
^ I concur with the double sock theory. The heat sink thing is interesting ... I've never considered it, but it makes sense.
Two pairs of socks not too thick and in between put a corner of a plastic bag to cover just the tows (not the entire foot) It works very well and keep the feet loose so blood circulation is not cut off.
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Old 11-03-14, 05:23 PM
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In this kind of situation cold flows from cold to hot, from cold outside to hot inside the shoe. The clip fitting is an ideal channel. So, insulation in that area will help.

You say only the soles of your feet were cold? Common problem for everyone is cold climates. That is why cold weather boots have thick soles; not those pseudo cold weather boots sold in many stores. So, take a lesson from them. Thicken up your soles by inserts. Additional heaters, etc. won't solve that particular problem.

You may have to buy larger shoes/boots to accommodate the extra insulation and still allow adequate blood/lymph circulation. At that point you may well want to consider going to a bear claw style pedal and just using a standard winter boot. That is what most people I know have done.

Heaters sound good. But, they are a hazard in themselves. Accidentally touching the skin with them can cause burns. Relying on them and having a delay getting to warm when they run out can cause cold injury. I use them; but with a great deal of caution.

Whatever you do you MUST keep your feet dry. If you sweat a lot, like many people, stopping to change your socks every hour or so is a great idea. Even a planned short ride mandates carrying extra socks just in case.

Of course I'm coming at this from the perspective of someone who has spent days outside in below freezing temperatures and who has had to handle cold injuries from people who didn't know enough to make proper provision. If you are in a warm climate and only riding around the block just gutsing it out may work.
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Old 11-03-14, 10:46 PM
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I too use chemical toe warmers when the cold is in the teens...I'd rather have warm feet than suffer with frozen feet any day.
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Old 11-04-14, 01:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Ursa Minor View Post
Poor circulation in the legs and feet can be a sign of diabetes. Have you had your fasting blood sugar checked lately (or your A1C)?

Charlie
Something that came to my mind when I read the thread header.

I'm having some mild tingling in one of the middle fingers in my left hand. Am taking a carpal tunnel test for it next week.
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Old 11-04-14, 02:10 AM
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Like others have said, tight shoes (and gloves) on extremities in cold weather is a no no. One, because thicker wool socks are worn, causing circulation issues (making extremities colder) and, two, because there is no room to store heat. In a bigger shoe/boot/glove, there's more air to store body heat. In a spring/summer shoe, this doesn't matter. It's a survivalist's rule to upsize a shoe/boot about 1 full size during cold days. This fixes the two things you need in cold weather: thicker wool socks, and more air to warm, and perhaps even a chemical hand/foot warmer.

I have excellent circulation, therefore my feet get moist easily. Wetness and cold do not mix. So I also use Gold Bond cooling foot powder to soak up the sweat. I doubt you use cotton, but if you do, I would suggest to stop. Cotton insulates well but takes forever to dry -- Not good in cold or hot weather. Wool and nylon and silk are all good for cold. Scratch the silk for hot days. Silk is great for cold because it's very tightly woven, keeping warmth in and cold out. I like silk liner gloves -- Very thin and can hardly tell they're on. For winter, I like to use a very thin nylon "liner sock" under a wool sock. They're very thin and do good at wicking. Extreme temps (-30F) I'll put on another pair of wool socks. I have "hot" feet so chemical foot earners would be overkill, making my feet sweat=wet=cold.

Also, if shopping for wool socks, look at the percentage blend. Cheapo wool socks are advertised as wool but are actually something like 15% wool, 85% cotton. Buy good stuff and it'll be an investment, like most things.

So, you may have to buy some new cycling shoes -- Bigger ones that will fit thicker socks and provide more space to heat up. Just be sure they aren't too big because blisters can come into play then.

P.S. I have found that the cheapo Kodiak wool blend socks (the higher percentage wool blend blue ones) from Walmart do work when in a pinch on a small wallet. But I also used the cheapo nylon black liner socks found in the hunting section. I did find that I had to use 2 pairs of those wool socks more often than my Merrell's. Just FYI, if money is tight.

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Old 11-04-14, 07:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Zinger View Post
Something that came to my mind when I read the thread header.

I'm having some mild tingling in one of the middle fingers in my left hand. Am taking a carpal tunnel test for it next week.
Zinger, hope that this one gets resolved for you, this rings some alarm bells for me, not major, but this one can be maddening for all of us. My problem was in the right little finger, changed to a different padding layout glove to get pressure off of this particular nerve. It always seem to feel numb, and cold, even in the summer time. Let us know how the test goes, please.

Bill
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Old 11-04-14, 08:51 AM
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For cool weather riding, a little trick I use is to wrap a piece of paper towel over my toes as I am putting my shoes on. That, along with a pair of toe warmers will keep my feet warm to about 0 C. I use Look pedals, so the thick plastic cleat does not act as a heat sink. For winter riding on my mountain bike I have a pair of heavy leather winter cycling shoes. They are a somewhat loose fit so that I can wear thicker socks without cutting off circulation. We regularly ride in temperatures around -10 C in the snow with no difficulties at all
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Old 11-04-14, 09:50 AM
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I appreciate all the comments and suggestions. My shoes are an old pair of Diadora that I've had for at least 20 years and I noticed that my toes lightly touch the end. I stopped by the bike shop last night to look at toe covers and got a pair by Castelli, and by chance they had a pair of Sidi shoes on sale that are one size larger than my old shoes, so I got them too. I also got a pack of toe warmers to try.

Now I need to find some wool socks.

One way or another, I intend to solve this problem.
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Old 11-04-14, 10:13 AM
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Clearly the first and second laws of thermodynamics are at play here...

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Old 11-04-14, 04:08 PM
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Originally Posted by qcpmsame View Post
Zinger, hope that this one gets resolved for you, this rings some alarm bells for me, not major, but this one can be maddening for all of us. My problem was in the right little finger, changed to a different padding layout glove to get pressure off of this particular nerve. It always seem to feel numb, and cold, even in the summer time. Let us know how the test goes, please.

Bill
OK Bill will do. The test is on the 13th.

I do have some diabetes in my family on my dad's side but that all seems OK with me and my doctor seems to think it's a carpel tunnel issue. It's just on the very tip of the finger and only came up a couple weeks ago.
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