peripheral neuropathy affect walking

peripheral neuropathy affect walking

For many, neuropathy becomes a common and difficult part of their life. It’s been estimated that 25-30% of people in the U.S will experience neuropathy at some point in their life. Peripheral neuropathy refers to the nervous system outside of the spinal cord and brain area. It is the nerves that go down into the foot & leg, or into the arms & hands. The symptoms of Peripheral neuropathy can include burning, tingling, numbness, and oftentimes weakness. It usually affects both feet, but not always – which is why peripheral neuropathy can affect walking. There are many nerve fibers directly underneath the skin called sensory nerves, and when these nerves start to die away it inhibits you from feeling pressure, resulting in not being able to feel your feet on the ground. People may also not be able to feel hot and cold on their feet.

Dibaetic Neuropathy

Diabetic neuropathy affects approximately 50-70% of those with diabetes, and when severe can result in ulcers and even amputation.It could start with something as simple as a callous that the patient cannot feel. This then creates an ulcer which can become infected. Oftentimes because there is a lack of feeling, the patient has no pain, and therefore no warning signs. If this results in an amputation, the situation can become life threatening. If you do not have diabetes, it is important to know that many people may be prediabetic, and the first signs can be symptoms of neuropathy in the feet. So if you have never been diagnosed with diabetes, but you’re getting neuropathy symptoms, there’s a chance that you could be pre-diabetic.

There are other types of neuropathy including chemotherapy induced neuropathy and alcoholic neuropathy. Aside from diabetic neuropathy, the most common diagnosis patients are given is idiopathic neuropathy – meaning neuropathy from an unknown cause.

What Are The Benefits Of Walking?

The benefits of walking are both mental and physical. Mentally, exercise has been shown to help people emotionally. Exercise can help increase dopamine levels in the brain (dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain that is associated with the feel good sensation you have after exercise).It is also thought that exercise can help you sleep better. The importance of sleep has become more apparent as it not only helps you feel better the next day, but can also help with high blood pressure, cancer and diabetes. Walking may also help to keep your weight down, which can have a big impact on controlling your blood sugar levels, blood pressure and even joint arthritis.

So how does peripheral neuropathy affect your walking? To better understand, I’d like to clarify the three ways neuropathy can have an effect on walking.treatment for neuropathy in legs and feet

Number 1 – PAIN

If you are in a lot of pain from the burning and tingling in your feet, maybe you’ll feel uncomfortable to go on a walk. If the pain is mild, you can still go for a walk, but maybe just not as far as you could before. So if your  symptoms are not that painful, that’s even more of a reason to consider walking.

If your pain is manageable while you walk, it’s a good idea to gradually increase the frequency and duration each time you walk. One principle to remember is that your body needs rest days. So rather than walking every day for 25 minutes five or six days per week, it may be better to walk four days for 35-45 minutes. Why? It’s thought that those extra minutes (for example, 35 minutes) tend to rev up your metabolism more for a longer period after the aerobic activity. This leads to more calories burned and better cardiac health. If walking is too painful, consider biking, swimming or pool exercises instead.

Number 2  – NUMBNESS

If your nerves are significantly damaged, you may experience numbness in your feet. This also serves as another factor that suppresses your desire to walk. Why? Because your ability to feel your feet on the ground has been reduced.

When your ability to feel your feet on the ground diminishes, you could feel unstable and possibly walk with a wider gait. In some cases you may even shuffle due to the lack of feeling. This can be a challenge, and it might make you even more susceptible to falling. For this scenario it is best to walk on flat surfaces and avoid walking or hiking on irregular terrain.

Number 3 –  WEAKNESS

Another symptom caused by peripheral neuropathy is weakness. This ranges from mild to severe in the case of drop foot, which is when it’s difficult to pull your foot or toes upwards. You could also be experiencing what I call “weakfoot”, meaning it’s difficult to push your foot off the ground. Again, it is most important to avoid irregular terrain, so it is important to consider or experiment with other forms of exercise.

If you have weakness or numbness that is not too severe, and you’re able to walk for exercise, then make sure your shoe selection is good. Generally, a shoe with more support (which is called a motion control shoe) should be used. Additionally, keep an eye on your shoes and make sure you do not overwear them to the point that they start to break down.

These are the ways that neuropathy can affect your walking. Please understand that it is important to seek treatment if you’re experiencing neuropathy. Contrary to what conventional medicine says, you do not have to live with it or take medications. At Anderson Center for Neuropathy and Chronic Pain, we can reverse the symptoms of neuropathies with surgical or non-surgical means.

Walking is one of the best forms of exercise for your mental and physical well-being. We hope this blog gives you a better understanding of peripheral neuropathy affect walking and how it impacts exercise regimen.

Treatment for neuropathy in legs and feet Broomfield and Fort Collins. Call or email us today.

Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is peripheral neuropathy, and how does it impact mobility?

Peripheral neuropathy involves damage to the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord, often leading to sensations like burning, tingling, numbness, and weakness in the feet and legs. This nerve damage can hinder your ability to sense the ground, making walking challenging and increasing the risk of instability and falls.

How prevalent is diabetic neuropathy, and what are the potential dangers?

Diabetic neuropathy affects 50-70% of individuals with diabetes, potentially leading to severe complications such as ulcers and amputations. Symptoms often start with numbness, which can mask injuries, allowing them to become serious. Even without a diabetes diagnosis, neuropathy symptoms may indicate pre-diabetes, necessitating early intervention.

What advantages does walking offer for those with neuropathy?

Walking provides numerous benefits, including improved mood, better sleep quality, weight management, and enhanced heart health. It helps regulate blood sugar levels and can reduce the risk of complications like high blood pressure and joint issues. Walking can be a safe and effective exercise with proper precautions.

How can pain from peripheral neuropathy affect walking?

Pain from neuropathy can deter walking, but managing the pain and gradually increasing walking duration can be beneficial. When walking becomes too painful, alternatives such as cycling, swimming, or water aerobics can provide similar health benefits without exacerbating the pain.

What steps should be taken if neuropathy causes numbness or weakness?

Numbness and weakness can compromise balance and safety. It is crucial to walk on smooth, even surfaces and wear supportive shoes to prevent falls. For severe symptoms, consider low-impact activities like swimming or stationary biking to maintain fitness without risking injury. Regular monitoring and appropriate footwear are key to managing these challenges.

  1. June 5, 2023

    I have had burning feet sensation since 2015. I started treatment on vitamine B12, Deeping my feet on cold water as well as raising my legs at some level while sleeping. There wasn’t real improvement and I started experiencing numbness on my feet and hands. At times the burning sensations stops for a few days. However the burning sensation has been more frequent and painful.

    • June 19, 2023

      Hi Richard,
      Richard, Your symptoms may be a sign of pre-diabetics. I would be a good idea to have an insuiin fasting testing and glucose tolerance test. This test can give you a better idea if you’re prediabetic. Most doctors also order Hemoglobin A1c tests and fasting insulin which are also good. The advantage of having all four tests done is we like to see your insulin level low and also your glucose levels not increase too much when you do glucose tolerance tests. With early detection modifying your diet, less sugar and carbs can help. Also consider intermittent fasting.

      Dr. James Anderson.

  2. August 22, 2023

    hello, i’ve been having numbness, weakness on left side of body (arms, legs) for over a week now. the pain feels like pins & needles tensing. also caused me to walk with a limp. I have a positive ANA not sure if those are connected. frequent urniation as well.

  3. October 22, 2023

    I lost 98 lbs but and messed up diet wise a few times along the way but initially reversed severe dry skin and numbness now 3 years later after going from an 8.0 A1C to 5 my left foot mostly is going numb beyond my toes and mine goes numb and stays that way. I am scared to say the least because I am eating perfectly all organic and all the right things. My circulation is supposedly good so my question is can walking still help anything as I don’t have a problem walking somehow.

    • October 25, 2023

      Joe, It sounds like you’re assuming that by losing weight and lowering your glucose levels you’re not going to get numb feet, neuropathy. This is not true. It’s great news that you’ve achieved the weight loss, and your lab levels are improved . However, many people with neuropathy have no diabetes. Also, a history of diabetes may have led to damage to the nerves that you still have . The treatments we recommend on my YouTube videos may still need to be considered if you were to get worse. Thanks for the question.

      Dr. James Anderson

  4. November 9, 2023

    I began experiencing numbness on my three outer toes bilateral
    (I’m not a diabetic) over the next few years it progressed up my legs all the while my balance was getting really bad and I began having falls so I started using a cane. Currently my hands are numb as well and I no longer drive. I’ve been seen by numerous neurologist at Duke and I still have no idea what caused my peripheral neuropathy. I’m beyond frustrated. (I’m 61 y/o)

    • November 15, 2023

      Hi Dee,

      First off understand that you don’t have to have diabetes to have neuropathy. Many who suffer from neuropathy have no diabetes. If you’re making this comment, you’ve probably seen me on YouTube or looked at our website. Please understand there can be a solution to get to the root cause of our problems and not have to live with it or take medications. Keep learning from our content and when ready will be here to discuss your situation. It takes courage to step away from that crowd that says there is no solution, and you have to live with it or take medication. Thanks for your comment.

  5. November 29, 2023

    I have idiopathic peripheral neuropathy. I’m 88 and was diagnosed about 20+ years ago. I’ve read that PN can affect your body temperature. My body seems to go from too warm, back to too cold and back again. Is that possibly from PN?

    • December 15, 2023

      Hi Virginia,

      If it’s your entire body, probably not. The chances are not very high that your entire body temperature would go from warm to cold and back again. If you are experiencing hot and cold sensation in your lower extremities, it is a possibility it could be from PN. If you want to book an online video/phone consultation feel free to email, chat, form or call our office for further discussion.


      Dr. James Anderson

  6. January 2, 2024

    I will be 71 tomorrow. However, I look 50 and feel 30 living on my non-working farm. African American, I have had Diabetes since 2009 and my A1C is in the sevens currently 7.3. and I try to eat better. I have a job selling door to door where I walk on concrete for 6 hours five or six days per week, solid waterproof boot shoes. My feet look good and usually the left feels normal like the right in the shower. But lately while walking sometimes I feel as if my left sock has doubled up in the shoe. Stopping to look, it hasn’t. After Internet research I believe I have PN. It has only recently gotten worse yet with no pain. My Nurse Practitioner is not the best, just take a pill mentality. Is there something I can do short of medication and surgery that can hault the deterioration of my feet. My mother is 90 and grandmom lived to 102 in great health. Do you have any suggestions?

  7. January 4, 2024

    I injured my foot and the left side of my left foot was painful, got a little better over several months…
    Now, I get burning, tingling in my left 3 toes of my left foot.
    I got a cortisone injections which helped a bit.
    It’s been 5 months. It has gotten a bit better, but uncomfortable when I walk too long.
    Will this heal over more time maybe? Or will surgery be necessary?
    Thank you

  8. January 30, 2024

    Was diagnosed by 2 doctors of peripheral neuropathy 3 years ago and told , Can’t be cured . Placed on 75mg PREBALIN at night per day. No nerve adjetation , CAN’T RIDE MY BIKE, Balance off the scales .70 YEARS OLD,Just want to walk again. Not HAPPY taking medication..PLEASE ADVISE 😁

  9. January 30, 2024

    I feel off balance all the time and it’s as if my blood is running cold inside my legs. My feet burn and I can’t find any shoes that I feel compts be le in ???

  10. February 17, 2024

    Hi Dr James Andersson. In January 11th i did a hip replacement surgery and woke up with a drop foot. I was numb but started feeling a pain around my ankle after a couple of days. Now 5 weeks later I have severe pain on my upper part of the foot and between the toes. My skin is like burning when touching it as well as it aching all the time. And i have problem with taking my shoes on and after about 50 meter my feet has swollen so much that my shoes feel way to small for me. Is there anything i could do to be able to walk again without the swelling?

    • February 28, 2024

      Hi Lotta,

      A complication of hip replacement surgery is drop foot. There can be tension placed on the sciatic nerve during the surgery. We often see compression of the common peroneal nerve as a result if this. This is the primary branch that supply’s nerve branch’s to the muscles that pull your foot up and sideways. Decompression of this nerve tunnel can reverse drop foot. As a peripheral nerve surgeon we suggest decompression of the nerve tunnel within 90 days if there is no trend towards improvement Typically most orthopedic surgeons will advise to wait and see if there is improvement over a years time. I would not recommend this as the chance of surgery working may be diminished.

      Thanks for this excellent question.

  11. March 13, 2024

    I experience numbness on both feet after walking for more than 100 metres or sometimes less. The numb feeling scares me because it puts me in a position where my coordination is a problem and I am worried of falling. It has never happens. To get back to the rhythm, I need to stop and rest for a while stretched a little bit and carry on walking again. What is wrong and what can I do to correct this.

  12. March 16, 2024

    Hello my name of s Debra, I was diagnosed with colon cancer 7/6/23, I started Chemotherapy one of the medication I was receiving was Oxypaltin and Cepltain pills, My hands and feet turned black, numbness, constant tingling discomfort. Should I look into surgery?

    • April 1, 2024

      Hi Debra,

      It is important that you get treatment and relief! From what you described, getting a video consultation or telemedicine appointment could be a good start. Please, use our online form or for faster response call our toll free number so our certified and experience foot doctor’s can talk to you.


      The team at Anderson Podiatry Center

  13. March 17, 2024

    My feet tingle and go numb during walks but it quickly goes away if I stop for a minute. They only do this if I am on my feet for awhile. I am not diabetic. Is there any exercise I could do to help.

    • April 1, 2024

      Hi Robert,

      We wish it would be that simple to diagnose and suggest what to do! You mentioned not being diabetic, but you could still have some nerve issues that flare up during certain activities. Or during during prolonged activity as you suggested. Give us a call or email us so that we can talk further and schedule an initial consultation to get some more historical data about yourself and the condition your are experiencing.


      The team at Anderson Podiatry Center

  14. March 19, 2024

    I had a knee dislocation, compartment syndrome and ischemia that damaged the nerves in my lower leg. I have no feeling or movement from the last 1/3 of my leg through my toes. I am 110 days out from injury. EMG last week shows know nerve stimulation below the knee. Is there anything that can be done to allow me to continue to walk?

    • April 1, 2024

      Hi Mary,

      It would be better to have a scheduled phone/video call to provide a better assessment. Please, call our office or email us with a date and time slots you would prefer.


      The team at Anderson Podiatry Center

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