Foot cramps can come on out of the blue and ruin whatever it is you’re doing! In some cases, they can stick around for hours at a time, making daily activities difficult. And some people have the bad luck of regular cramps.
If you’re one of those people, this guide is for you. We’re looking at the causes, treatments, and preventions of foot cramps so you can take back your life!
Once you know what’s behind your frequent cramping, you can find the best way to treat it and stop it from returning. Let’s check it out!
What Is a Foot Cramp?
A foot cramp is a muscle spasm in the foot. It can affect a single muscle at a time, or multiple muscles may be involved. Some foot cramps last for just a few minutes or even less. But some can stick around for hours, literally cramping your style!
They can sometimes come on without any warning or an apparent cause. Foot cramps happen to everyone at some point, but if you get them regularly, there’s a high chance of there being an underlying cause.
What Causes Foot Cramps?
Once you nail down the cause of your foot cramps, you can find a way to treat them effectively. It’ll also give you an indication of how best to prevent them from recurring! Here are the most common reasons for foot cramps.
Choice of Footwear
Ill-fitting shoes is a big one, and much more common than you might realize! The biggest reason for foot cramps is inadequate arch support or arch support that sits in the wrong place.
When your arch isn’t properly supported, the muscles and tissues in your foot can easily become strained. They need to work harder to support your body weight, and the more you walk, the more fatigued the muscles become.
At some point, the muscle will become over-fatigued and go into a spasm. This can also happen when your feet are forced into too-small shoes or your toes have to work harder to grip too-big shoes.
Dehydration and Electrolyte Imbalances
If you become dehydrated, your muscles are likely to start cramping. This can happen anywhere in the body… Feet included! Most of the time, dehydration leads to electrolyte imbalances, which are usually the culprit for foot cramps.
When your potassium, sodium, and magnesium levels are skewed, the nerve cells may misfire and trigger muscle contractions.
Overuse or Strain of Foot Muscles
Our muscles need a break sometimes. If you’re on your feet often during the day, the foot muscles can fatigue and cramp. It’s also common after exercise that’s placed strain on the feet, like jumping rope or running when your feet aren’t used to it.
When the circulation in your legs and feet are impaired, you may get burning cramps in your legs and feet. This happens most often during exercise, and it’s because of inadequate blood flow to the muscles, which causes them to go into a spasm during activity.
Nerve Compression or Damage
Damage to the nerves—neuropathy—can lead to strange sensations in the area. When the nerves leading to your foot are damaged, they can cause you to feel something like cramps in your feet.
It’s important to note that these are not usually muscular cramps. Instead, the nerve’s misfiring sends a pain signal to the brain, creating the “feeling” of pain.
Nerve damage can be caused by a range of things, including chemotherapy, medical conditions like diabetes, and trauma.
Some underlying conditions may lead to foot cramps. Diabetes is often a risk factor, as circulation becomes impaired in the feet, and as the disease progresses, neuropathy may set in.
Liver disease and thyroid disease may also cause foot cramps, as the body’s electrolyte levels may fluctuate. If there’s no other apparent cause for your cramps, you may want to ask your doctor about medical conditions.
Sometimes, the medications you’re taking could contribute to foot spasms. In particular, cholesterol meds and diuretics have been known to cause foot cramps, but other medications may also. It’s wise to check if foot cramps are a known side effect of any medication you’re taking.
The obvious one is a pain in your foot! You may also feel that the affected muscle is hard, tense, or involuntarily flexed. The pain may ease up a little when you walk, and it can last for a few minutes to a few hours.
Factors That Can Increase Your Risk of Foot Cramps
Some people may be more at risk of developing foot cramps than others. If these sound like you, take extra care!
Swollen legs and feet are a common occurrence during pregnancy. But this can lead to impaired circulation. The legs and feet are also prone to overuse as you carry extra weight with you, so pregnant women may be more susceptible to their feet cramping.
As you age, your muscles lose strength and become fatigued more easily. This puts them at risk of getting cramps, especially if you walk a lot.
Carrying extra weight on your frame means an excess strain on your feet. They have to work harder to absorb shock as you walk, and they may become fatigued more easily. This can also mean more foot cramps for heavier people.
Excessive Sweating (Hyperhidrosis)
Excessive sweating can lead to electrolyte imbalances, which in turn, can boost your chances of getting foot spasms. The thing with cramps brought on by sweating is that you never know where they’ll hit you! It may be the feet, or it may be somewhere else.
Living an unhealthy lifestyle can make you more susceptible to foot cramps. Poor nutrition makes you more likely to have electrolyte and nutrient deficiencies while being overweight places stress on the feet.
On the other hand, living an active lifestyle where you play sports often can also put more strain on your feet. If you aren’t taking excellent care of your feet, they can easily become overworked and begin to cramp.
What Can You Do When Your Foot Cramps?
There are several things you can try to get the cramping to stop as soon as possible. Try them all—you never know when one might work and another doesn’t.
Stand and Put Weight on Your Cramping Foot
Putting your weight on your sore foot can stretch the muscle and ease the cramp. Standing on the foot can help, but walking will probably help more as it flexes and releases those muscles.
Massage Your Foot
Massaging your foot can help. Strong pressure on the cramping part will often relieve the pain and ease up tight muscles. It also helps to bring more blood flow to the area, which brings nutrients and oxygen that can help heal.
Gently Stretch Your Foot
Stretching helps to release tension. If you can’t stand on the foot, then you may want to gently stretch it while you’re seated. With your foot on the floor or out in front of you, flex your foot and pull your toes upwards, towards you.
You’ll feel a stretch in the bottom of the foot. If you can’t reach your feet, hook a towel around your toes and pull them up with that.
Applying Heat or Cold Therapy
Heat can help to loosen up tight muscles and relieve pain. Cold can help lower inflammation and reduce swelling. It’s a good idea to try both and figure out what works best for you so you can use it in the future.
How Can You Prevent Foot Cramps?
Once you know how to treat them if they pop up, the next step is to understand how to prevent them from happening! It comes down to some small lifestyle changes, but these should be effective at keeping your feet safe and pain-free.
Drink Plenty of Fluids Throughout the Day
Staying hydrated is one of the most underrated but effective ways to alleviate foot cramps. You should be drinking at least 8 glasses of water per day.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
Eat healthy and exercise! This will help you to maintain a healthy weight, and not having excess weight is excellent for your feet. Plus, your digestion will improve, likely to help keep your electrolytes balanced.
Wear the Right Footwear for Your Feet
Choosing shoes with the right arch support for your feet can make a big difference. Check your arch type and make sure you match the shoe to your arch. Proper support can significantly reduce strain on the feet, lowering your chance of cramps.
Use Orthotics for Extra Support
If inadequate arch support is the reason behind your foot pain and you can’t buy new shoes right now, we highly advise investing in a pair of orthotics that match your arch. They’re more affordable than buying new shoes!
Stretch Your Feet
Stretching your foot in the moment of the cramp is helpful for relieving the pain. But if you make sure your feet are always supple and stretched before the cramp comes, there’s less chance of it coming at all. Stretch your feet every evening to loosen up any tight muscles.
Do Exercises to Strengthen Your Feet
Foot-strengthening exercises can go a long way toward reducing your chance of foot cramps. Things like calf raises on a step can help to strengthen the muscles and tissues in the foot, which means they’ll be less susceptible to cramping.
Keep Your Feet Warm
Cold feet lead to poor circulation. Keep your feet warm and you should notice that the blood flow is better. You might need to wear two pairs of socks, warm them up with a hot water bottle, or try heated insoles! Avoid walking barefoot.
Have a Warm Epsom Salt Foot Bath
Epsom salt is an easily absorbable form of magnesium, and a magnesium deficiency is one of the most common reasons for cramps. Fill a small basin with warm water and dissolve some Epsom salt.
Soak your feet for a while. Your body should absorb the magnesium, which will alleviate the cramps. Plus, it’s a nice way to pamper yourself!
Treat Underlying Medical Conditions
It’s also a good idea to get a general checkup and ensure you have no underlying health conditions. If a medical condition contributes, getting the right treatment could be the key to fixing your cramps.