The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Foot Cramps Explained: NY Podiatrists Discuss Causes of and Solutions to Foot Spasms and Cramping

Posted by on Friday, January 1st, 2016


Perhaps the most infamous of all body spasms is the horrific nighttime Charley horse in the calf muscle that affects roughly 1 in 3 people.1 Yet, the next worst offender is the dreadful foot spasm that comes just as suddenly, without warning. The contraction can come and go quickly or it can persist seemingly forever until you’re able to stretch out and take a deep breath. The occasional odd foot cramp is usually nothing to worry about, but if you suffer these excruciating moments of paralysis and muscle chaos on a fairly regular basis, there may be a potentially serious underlying cause worthy of your attention.

foot cramps
Does your foot or leg cramp up during or after strenuous exercise? It might be time to get that checked out! Image Source: Flickr CC user bearpark

Possible Causes for Foot Cramps and Spasms

These type of cramps are not well-studied because they aren’t usually serious in nature and are often over before treatment is sought. Feasibly, doctors could run functional MRIs if to check for action in the motor cortex, but it’s really not a diagnostic test people routinely have done.

Experts’ best estimation is that the nerves go haywire and trigger intense muscle contractions perhaps due to:

  • Diseases like neuropathy or a movement disorder (dystonia) related to Parkinson’s or Huntington’s
  • Electrolyte imbalances related to dehydration
  • Certain medications like albuterol inhalers, statins, and water pills2
  • Blood vessel fluid retention and diluted electrolyte levels due to pregnancy
  • Dehydration related to strenuous exercise and poor water intake
  • A pinched nerve in the back or neck

Should You Be Concerned About Your Foot Cramps?

Sometimes there are more serious causes for cramping if you notice it occurs during or after exercise, such as:

  • Low thyroid function3
  • Metabolic muscle disease4
  • Liver failure5

We recommend that you stay well-hydrated during your workouts and wear well-fitting shoes with good arch support to prevent foot cramping. If these common sense remedies do not work, then speak to a specialist to rule out the more serious culprits.

Did You Start a New Exercise Program?

We find that many older Americans starting new exercise programs suffer from cramping — usually related to poor footwear and overexertion of tired muscles. Keep in mind that people begin naturally losing muscle in their mid-forties, which means our muscles can’t work as hard or eliminate waste as efficiently as they used to. Also, the post-40 body is more susceptible to thirst and dehydration, which results in more frequent cramping.

Before you switch out of dress shoes or heels and into sneakers, stretch out your feet to get the circulation going. Flex your feet and toes a few times. Spread and wiggle the toes. Circle your ankles in both directions. While exercising, avoid motions known to cramp up the feet. Often, yoga or Pilates practitioners report severe pain while pointing the toes, which is often not necessary.

What to Do During a Foot Cramp Attack

If a cramp has a hold on you, try:

  • Walking it out
  • Pulling the toes up toward the shin
  • Placing a cold pack on the offending muscle
  • Taking a warm shower
  • Off-label Botox injections

In general, you may want to up your mineral consumption — eating foods like yogurt, milk, cheese, spinach, broccoli, almonds and bananas, and sipping sports drinks like Gatorade or Powerade during workouts.

What A Podiatrist Can Do For Foot Spasms

In NYC, The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine can help you answer the following questions:

  • Is overexertion to blame for my foot cramps?
  • How much calcium, potassium, and magnesium should I be getting each day?
  • What stretches will help me prevent and care for a cramp?
  • Am I wearing the right kind of shoes for my foot type?
  • Could my foot cramps be related to undiagnosed diabetes or peripheral artery disease?

Contact our experienced podiatrists to set up a thorough examination and get to the root cause of your suffering.



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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.