Ask the expert


Pins and needles in my feet when walking

I get slight pins and needles in my foot when walking. Is it a serious problem?

3 May 2019

Pins and needles are caused by a break in the communication between your nerves and your brain. If you experience pins and needles only when you’re walking, it could be caused by pressure on your foot. This is temporary pins and needles, which occurs when pressure cuts the blood supply to your nerves and stops them communicating with your brain.

There are several possible causes for this. It could be that your shoes are too tight or are pressing on your nerves. It might also be the way you walk. A few medical conditions can cause this symptom as well.

Checking your shoes and gait (the way you walk) for any pressure spots may help to relieve your symptoms. You can get a gait assessment from a physiotherapist and some fitness gyms may also provide an assessment of walking or running. Insoles might be an option too.

Temporary pins and needles can also be caused by Raynaud’s Syndrome. This is where your blood vessels go into spasm and stop the blood supply. This usually happens when you're cold or stressed, and can last anything from a few minutes to a few hours.

If the pins and needles in your feet are continuous – i.e. happen all the time, not just when you walk – or return regularly, go to see your GP as it could be a sign of an underlying health problem.

Long-lasting pins and needles in your feet can be a sign of a number of other conditions related to circulation or the nervous system, such as:

  • Diabetes, which can affect your feet as it causes poor circulation and can damage your nerves.

  • Sciatica. The sciatic nerve runs from your back, through your hips and down your leg to your feet. Pins and needles can be caused by something irritating or squeezing this nerve.

Other potential causes of pins and needles that are less common include malnutrition, alcohol abuse, exposure to toxic substances, or an injury or infection that damages your nerves. Having a stroke can also affect your nervous system.

Treatment for permanent pins and needs will depend on the cause so meet with your GP to be assessed and get appropriate treatment.

Answered by the Health at Hand team.

Sources and further reading

Pins and needles - NHS factsheet

Raynaud's phenomenon - NHS factsheet

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