Leg Cramps and Foot Numbness

This morning on Facebook, Joe asked me,

Any tips on how to avoid leg cramps or foot numbness on long runs?

It’s good timing for a question like this, because running in the cold can actually complicate cramping, which is generally caused by lack of hydration or excessive sweating, or low sodium, potassium and/or magnesium. So dress warmly, hydrate, and take sodium tablets, many of which contain potassium, if you can tolerate them. Sustain tablets are my favorites and don’t upset my stomach. (Well, not much does, so that may not be a fair gauge for you.)

You can also take magnesium supplements, and I like to couple those with calcium, which helps with bone health. Be careful, though, especially about magnesium, and don’t exceed the daily requirement, as it can cause digestive and cardiovascular problems. Just as with any supplement, I encourage you to do your homework and listen to your body about what will be helpful, what’s a waste of your money, and what’s potentially harmful.

Sometimes, wearing tights or compression sleeves can help with cramping of the leg muscles, but on much longer runs (multiday), the body’s natural ability to get rid of edema is compromised with compression of any kind.

About numbness in your feet: Make sure you wear warm socks and that your shoe laces are on the loose side so that you’re not constricting circulation or nerves. A trick I’ve used is to switch to the round-type elastics that you can buy in sewing shops and lace up with those. If your feet swell, the elastic expands and affords you comfort without having to stop and readjust your shoestring tightness.

Good luck, and happy running!

Have questions of your own about training, sports nutrition, injury, mind-set, strategy, or anything along those lines? I’m happy to give you my thoughts and experience. The best way to get a response is to post your question on the Ask Marsh page of this blog or on Facebook.

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