There you are, relaxing, feeling fine, maybe even lying in bed drifting off to sleep when suddenly, out of nowhere, it happens – your foot tenses and is taken over with sharp jabs of intense pain. This sensation is commonly called a foot cramp or foot spasm, and OUCH, do they ever hurt!

Like other body cramps (the infamous Charley horse for example), toe and foot cramps can hit suddenly and boy, do they ever smart. It’s a grab your foot, fall on the floor and roll around like a cranky toddler type of hurt. These contractions can come and go quickly or can persist for a few minutes (though it feels like forever) until you can stretch it out. If you experience the occasional foot cramp, it is usually not something to worry about, but if you suffer from them regularly, there may be an underlying cause that needs to be addressed.

What Causes Foot Cramps?

Foot cramps, and cramps like them, aren’t well-studied because they are not serious in nature and treatment is rarely sought. However, it has been determined that there are a number of things that can cause foot cramps.

Experts have determined that they are caused when the nerves go erratic and trigger forceful muscle contractions. Sometimes they are caused by something as simple as your feet being tired or holding your foot in the same position for too long. Wearing shoes that are too tight is another common culprit. Other causes of foot cramps include:

  • Electrolyte imbalances related to dehydration can cause foot cramps, as well as dehydration related to strenuous exercise and poor water intake.
  • Diluted electrolyte levels and blood vessel fluid retention due to pregnancy.
  • Magnesium and/or potassium deficiency.
  • Certain medications like albuterol inhalers, statins, and water pills.
  • Poor blood circulation which can sometimes be caused by things such as peripheral artery disease or diabetes.
  • A spinal cord injury or pinched nerve in your neck or back.
  • Diseases like neuropathy or a movement disorder (dystonia) related to Parkinson’s or Huntington’s.

If you notice the cramping occurs during or after exercise it may be a result of a more serious problem such as:

To prevent foot cramping during workouts, wear shoes that fit well and have good arch support, and stay well-hydrated during your workouts. If these simple remedies don’t work, you should speak with a doctor to rule out more serious possibilities.

How to Relieve a Foot Cramp

Foot cramps usually pass quickly, however, if you find yourself with one that lingers for a bit you can try these tips for some relief:

  • Take off your shoes or socks or anything that may be affecting your foot.
  • Massage your foot with your hands.
  • Try walking it off.
  • Apply heat with a heating pad.
  • Try stretching it out. You can flex your toes up and down or grab your toes and pull them towards your shin as far as you can and hold them for a moment. Repeat until the cramp passes.

How to Prevent Foot Cramps

Because dehydration and dietary deficiencies are the main causes of foot cramps, increase your mineral consumption. Eat more foods like almonds, bananas, broccoli, cheese, spinach, and yogurt. Don’t over drink and don’t rely on colored liquids with lots of sugar in them like Gatorade and Powerade as a source of hydration. Instead, drink water. If your cramps seem to occur most often during the night, try stretching your feet out before going to bed.

When to Visit Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle About Your Foot Cramps

The occasional foot cramp is usually nothing to worry about. Persistent foot cramps may indicate that there is something else going on in your body, such as poor circulation. If you keep on having cramps, you should see a doctor to make sure there isn’t something more serious going on. An appointment at Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle can help answer the following questions:

  • Are you wearing the right shoes for your foot type?
  • Is overexertion to blame for your cramps?
  • What stretches will work for you to help prevent and/or care for foot cramps?
  • Are you getting enough potassium, magnesium, and calcium in your diet? How much should you be getting?
  • Are your foot cramps related to an undiagnosed condition such as peripheral artery disease or diabetes?

If you are concerned about your foot cramps, or if you are experiencing pain in your feet and/or ankles, please do not ignore it. Contact one our friendly foot doctors at Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle for an evaluation. We will help you find a solution for your problem.

Our foot and ankle care doctors and surgeons are board-certified by the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery and are members of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons and the American Podiatric Medical Association. Call (208) 855-5955 or request an appointment online.

About Dr. Roman Burk:
Dr. Roman Burk is a podiatrist at Rocky Mountain Foot and Ankle. He completed his Doctor of Podiatric Medicine degree from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 2004. Dr. Burk is accepting new patients.