The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Foot Cramps!!!

Posted by on Monday, March 5th, 2012


There you are, feeling fine, just minding your own business. Perhaps you’re even drifting off to sleep. Then suddenly it happens–your foot is seized by excruciating pain, like little monsters have landed on you and are stomping on every nerve. To this I can only say, “Owwwww.”

Like any kind of body cramp, foot and toe cramps strike quickly and, well, they just really hurt. Like fall on the floor, roll around and scream like a child who’s being told it’s time to leave Chuck E. Cheese’s kind of hurt. Usually they only last a short time, but for some people they can be a regular annoyance. So let’s find out more about these nasty demons and learn what you can do about them.

What causes foot cramps? I thought we covered this–little monsters have landed on your foot and are stomping on your nerves. Oh, wait, there’s an actual medical explanation? Oops, here we go–

Foot and toe cramps may be caused by a number of things. Sometimes they’re simply the result of your feet being tired, or maybe from keeping your feet in the same position too long; look out if you’re one of those people who spends an hour or more on an elliptical machine with your feet locked into a small spot with barely any movement. If you’re one of them, try to shift your feet around or change your direction or motion (and to be honest, if you’re looking for a good, hard workout, you can use your time a lot better than spending an hour on an elliptical). Another common culprit are shoes that are too tight.

Probably the most common reason for foot cramps, though, is a dietary deficiency or dehydration. Run a long race, and you’re bound to see people falling by the wayside, rolling in pain.

I am in agony from foot cramps but have managed to get online, look up foot cramps, and now am here looking for help. Congratulations, pain-filled person! Welcome! Like I said above, foot cramps typically pass quickly, but if you’re looking for some immediate relief, you can try a few things:

  • Try walking it off.
  • Take off your shoes or socks, or anything else that might be affecting your foot.
  • Massage your foot with your hands.
  • Apply heat (with a heating pad, not a flaming torch).
  • Do some simple stretches: a) flex your toes up and down or b) grab your toes and pull them towards you as far as you can, hold them a moment, then repeat until you feel the cramp passing.

Wow, that’s a relief! I never want a foot cramp again! Well, there are some things you can do to try to avoid foot cramps. For starters, wear the right size shoes. Yes, I know I keep saying that, but this is one of the most simple answers to almost every foot problem.

Next, you can try stretching on a regular basis or, if you suffer from nighttime cramps, stretch before you go to bed. Here’s a simple stretch:

Put your hands against a wall and walk one leg a few steps back. Keep the heel flat on the ground. Move your other leg forward and bend that knee. Push your hips forward and push the heel of your back leg down as you lean in. You should feel a stretch down the lower part of your calf. Hold for a beat or two, then switch legs.

As noted above, foot and toe cramps can also be the result of dietary deficiencies, such as not enough calcium or potassium. Make sure you’re eating calcium rich foods or drinking milk (if you’re vegan, you’ll find that most soy and almond milks have levels of calcium that are comparable to dairy milk). Bananas are a great source of potassium, and have many other health benefits. I always try to have a banana sometime after running and if I don’t, I’m sure to feel achier than usual or get some kind of cramp. Finally, make sure you’re drinking enough if you’re training hard. Don’t overdrink, though, and don’t rely on strangely colored liquids with lots of sugar in them as a source of hydration. Try water.

Persistent foot cramps or leg cramps can be a sign 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.

If you’re having any kind of trouble with your feet and toes, contact us at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, and Dr. Ryan Minara have helped thousands of people get back on their feet.


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.