The Elliptical trainer, found at many local gyms, can be a great way to reduce overall joint stress and still get a good workout. Many people who suffer from knee and/or hip problems will find the Elliptical to be a way to spare the after-pain that they might experience during running or other high-impact activities.
For the foot, there are a couple of problems that the Elliptical trainer can exacerbate or even cause. The first is nerve irritation, medically called, “neuritis” or a “neuroma”. The ball of the foot is most vulnerable, and the most common area is between the 3rd and 4th toe joints, causing tingling and numbness in this area as well as into the affected digits.
The other issue that I see in my patients is inflammation of one or more of the joint capsules in the ball of the foot, or, “capsulitis”. Joint capsules have a large concentration of nerves and blood vessels, and can become inflamed and very painful with excessive pressure.
Why would the Elliptical lead to these problems?- Well, the answer lies both in the flexed position your foot is on the foot platform, as well as the forward shift of your body weight with each step, similar to cross-country skiing.
Ways to avoid these problems include keeping the elliptical flat, rather than working out on an incline. You should also try cross-training, where you spend some of your weekly time on other machines such as the bike or treadmill. Taking a day or two off from exercising is also always good to do when your feet hurt.
If you are an avid fan of the Elliptical and have not had any issues with foot pain, it is fine to continue but just be mindful of any sign of numbness, tingling, or pain, which may indicate an overuse injury such as a neuroma or capsulitis. If your symptoms continue, see your podiatrist! Both of these issues can usually be treated successfully in the office, as long as they are addressed early enough. A thorough podiatric evaluation can also make sure that there is not another more serious problem present.