Trouble with feet going numb while paddling.

I paddle a wilderness zephyr with the phase 3 air pro seat for reference.

This is really my only limiting issue anymore. Ive gotten to routinely doing 30 and 40 and 50 mile day trips and my feet are always the issue. Between shuffling them constantly on and off the pegs and adjusting the pegs back and forth it really taints my enjoyment.

Maybe I’m putting my feet on the pegs wrong or my legs aren’t positioned correctly. Sometimes it helps to have the pegs closer with more bend in my knee, sometimes it helps to straighten my legs more. Sometimes nothing helps. I don’t know how common this is or if there is some advice about my form or posture or position that will help. Thanks.

What type shoes are you wearing? Have you tried a different shoe?

Fifty miles on a day trip is impressive. Rivers? Lakes? Ocean? How many hours does it take you to do 50?

To see if it is shoe/clothing versus boat fit, wear your paddling shoes and paddle gear some time when you are not in the boat and see if your feet go numb. If so, then it likely is the clothing and not the boat.

Feet becoming numb isn’t as common as legs going numb. Is it definitely the feet, and not lower legs? Legs going numb is often from sciatica or tight hamstrings.

Usually it’s not the legs and feet that cause numbness it’s the lower back. Try sitting on a pad, also pad the back of the seat, make sure the edge of the kayak isnt touching your back, sit upright without slouching, lock your legs in so you sit up straight. Mine will go numb when I slouch so I force myself to sit up which isn’t easy for me. Keep experimenting because there is an answer. It could be the 50 miles. I go numb just reading the sentence.

I have the same problem and it happens regardless of the boat or the shoes I wear. Coincidentally, I also have a Zephyr ('09 160 Pro) but it also happens in my Perception Carolina and in other boats too.

Three things have helped me:

  1. Loosen the straps on my paddling shoes.
  2. Relax my legs. I found that I was putting way too much pressure on my feet against the pegs and I can maintain a solid stroke with much less.
  3. Straighten my legs and flex my feet and ankles every 30 minutes or so.

It’s mostly #2 for me. Whether in NRS paddle shoes, sandals, or even Sockwas, I just pressed too hard on the pegs and made my feet go numb.I have to consciously relax and then the problem goes away.

Good luck.

I wear Astral Lowyak shoes and actually wear them as normal shoes a lot of the time when I’m not paddling because of how comfortable they are.

I paddle predominantly on the Yadkin River and can usually do a 50 mile trip in 10 or 11 hours. I don’t really take breaks and I eat in the boat and rest as I drift. More often than not I don’t get out the entire trip. This probaby doesn’t help my feet but they do it whether I get out and stretch or not.

I started with the Loyak and they were fine my first summer paddling, but my feet started complaining as my trip time increased. They have a thin sole and I was possibly lacing them too tightly.

Astral has other models with thicker, more supportive soles so I switched to the Brewess. They’re laced relaxed enough to keep them on my feet without creating any pressure points. I also paddle with knees close to each other (no frog position) which allows lots of leg movement and foot position changes.

I’ve found the hamstring exercises listed here very beneficial. I do them each day:

As you state getting out of the boat doesn’t help, are you hydrating enough? Does your seat tip you back so there’s pressure on the back of your thighs? Most people take breaks when driving 10 to 11 hours in their cars, which are more comfortable than a kayak cockpit. I can’t imagine paddling that long without taking a break, if only to pop my legs out of the cockpit and hang them off the sides of the boat to wiggle them around. When I can, I get out of my boat around the 3 or 3.5 hour mark just to stand up for a few minutes.

@Rookie said:.,…
When I can, I get out of my boat around the 3 or 3.5 hour mark just to stand up for a few minutes.

Me too.
If you heels are on the hull you might need some cushion there.

I’m looking in to foam foot rests instead of pegs.

Ditto on the stretching exercises. Most problems with numbness in extremities are caused by something pretty far “upstream” and have nothing at all to do with the place where the symptoms are felt. Tight hamstrings are THE most common cause of problems for people in “the kayak position”, because most people really don’t have the flexibility to bend cleanly at the hips without straining both back and thigh muscles. And for people who haven’t done much stretching (I was one of them for many years), it’s basically not possible to understand how much or in what way they are being hindered, because the degree of flexibility they have is all they know. They also don’t know how much work they’ll need to put into stretching to gain mobility until strongly motivated to do so. Every little bit helps, but what most people do in the way of stretching is far too little. I suggest making a project of it and come up with ways of gauging progress.

If it’s like hands going numb on the bicycle you are doing what has to be done. “Shuffling back and forth”.

Your feet problems are different than mine, but here is what I do:

From the beginning of my paddling days (many moons ago), my heels would hurt after paddling a while.
I went through a number of shoes, padding under feet, etc.

What solved it for me is ‘paddling shoes’ - specific to paddling - do not work for landing in surf, getting out on oyster beds, etc.
So, I wear a ‘water shoe’ for getting me going, then change to my ‘kayak shoe’.

Since they came out, I’ve been wearing Mion ‘Ebb Tide Slide’ ( (Mion long since out of business - though I’m sure there are similar out there) when paddling.
On long paddles (over 5 hours or so), I will take them off for 15 minutes, then put them back on (note: doing so with feet only - while underway, no loss of time), and repeat this every hour.

One common problems with foot pegs is that they’re simply too small to provide real support for your feet. It’s the equivalent of walking with a pieced of broomstick attached to the bottoms of your shoes, which of course one would never do. Most foot pegs are designed to sit dead vertical, but the natural position of your feet is to angle your toes forward. Consequently, the upper edge of the foot pegs is constantly digging into the soles of your paddling shoes. Over time, it’s a recipe for discomfort.

I install foam bulkhead pads in my boats with individual foot pads that are angled forward ~15 degrees and the difference in comfort is dramatic. The pads are also splayed somewhat to match the natural angle of my feet, but that varies from person to person. I leave some space between the foot pads so I can fully straighten my legs when I want to. So far, this is the most comfortable system I’ve found.

@Funktion said:
I paddle predominantly on the Yadkin River and can usually do a 50 mile trip in 10 or 11 hours. I don’t really take breaks and I eat in the boat and rest as I drift. More often than not I don’t get out the entire trip. This probaby doesn’t help my feet but they do it whether I get out and stretch or not.

Sitting in a locked-in position for 10-11 hours isn’t good for your body. Even if you think getting out and stretching isn’t helping, you should do it anyway. Otherwise, you invite problems such as blood clots, and yes - muscle spasms leading to nerve compression (and eventually, neuropathy).

I agree with DrowningDave, lower back is usually the culprit.

I feel what you are talking about. I have read a common problem is a shorting of the hip flexor muscle (do to body building, or desk slouching). It causes anterior pelvic tilt which effectively makes your hamstrings tight ( hips rotate forward pulling on the hamstrings attanched underneath) Problem with this is stretching your hamestirngs can cause the pelvic tilt to worsen as they can become the main resisting force to that muscle group.

Eventually I will work more on those muscles, and maybe both my back pain will go away and my feet will stop feeling numb.

Maybe you can supply a link to the place you read this, because on the surface it makes no sense to me. First, the hip flexors will be longer when you slouch at a desk than when you sit bolt upright, so your statement about cause and effect doesn’t add up (oh, and body builders are typically not less flexible than normal either, from what I’ve seen and read). Even more to the point, the flexor muscles are already at nearly at their shortest condition when sitting, so surely the limiting length of those muscles is not a factor at such times even if they have shortened. Maybe what you read is not what you describe, or maybe your terminology (flexing/extending, anterior/posterior) doesn’t match the terminology I’m familiar with, so reading this in it’s original form might clear things up.

A thing I do for comfort is put a foam block under my ankles/calves. It takes weight off my heels. It might help you some.
Edit: And I second what bnystrom said up there. If you’ve ever paddled a kayak with the foam up against the bulkhead (and it’s at the right depth) it is SWEET.

Too many web pages and I probably confused myself. This video mentions anterior pelivic tilt is often caused by sitting. I am sorry if I got terms wrong.

Here is a video talking about anterior versus posterior pelvic tilt in relationship with hamstrings

This last video is more focused on anterior pelvic tilt with weight lifter and body builders (definitely not me)