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What Causes Foot Cramps?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Foot cramps are something that many people experience from time to time. There are many different reasons why foot cramps may develop. Some have to do with nutrition, while other bouts are due to excess strain on the feet themselves.

One of the more common reasons for foot cramps is old-fashioned fatigue. Cramps can occur when the feet are simply tired from walking or standing for extended periods of time. This can be especially true in settings where the walking and standing take place on a hard and unforgiving surface, such as concrete. Often, adding some cushioning inserts to the shoes will help to minimize some of the stress and strain placed on the feet and help to eliminate frequent foot cramps.

Foot pain and cramping may also be a sign of decreased circulation. When the blood flow to the extremities is not what it should be, those extremities do not receive the oxygen they need. When it comes to the feet, an inadequate supply of oxygen can cause muscles in the feet to cramp. Addressing the health issue that is causing the decreased circulation will help to minimize the incidence of foot cramps.

A lack of essential vitamins and minerals can also lead to foot cramps. Low potassium levels often cause cramps in both the legs and the feet. Nutritional deficiencies can be corrected by eating a balanced diet and using supplements to provide the body with anything it is not getting from the food. A foot cramp due to poor nutrition can be reversed within a matter of days when the body begins to receive the right balance of vitamins and minerals on a daily basis.

Poor hydration may also trigger a bout of foot cramps. Drinking water will often help; however, anyone who smokes or drinks alcohol regularly will want to try cutting back on those habits. Both smoking and the consumption of alcohol can increase the chances of dehydration, and thus may be the root cause of the foot cramps.

General health issues may also lead to foot cramps. People with diabetes sometimes experience foot cramps due to the decreased flow of oxygen to the feet. There are treatments that help to minimize the physical discomforts brought on by diabetes and other health conditions and minimize the potential for experiencing cramping in one or both feet.

Often, foot cramps are a temporary pain that will quickly go away by making some lifestyle or dietary changes. If the foot cramps persist, it is important to see a doctor immediately. Foot cramps may be a sign of an underlying illness that can be effectively treated if caught in the early stages.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including The Health Board, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By anon998551 — On Jul 03, 2017

I get them when I drink too much pop.

By anon994584 — On Feb 21, 2016

Put on warm socks and insert strong magnets in the bottoms and sleep with them.

By anon983659 — On Jan 01, 2015

Here's something I learned recently from a massage therapist that has incredible results: grab the cramping muscle and vigorously shake it sideways. This "confuses" the muscle. I've now tried it three times and it works immediately. I found this site just now after excruciating bilateral calf and ankle cramps last night. I realize that it was probably from my three glasses of New Year's champagne and not much water all day. I will try the apple cider vinegar and electrolytes. For those surprised by laxative effects of magnesium, look at a bottle of "milk of magnesia"!

By anon972409 — On Oct 03, 2014

I get foot cramps that twist my toes and are painful. I don't know what causes it but when it starts, I put the the ball of my foot firmly on the ground and press down on my knee until my heel hits the ground. The pain stops immediately!

By anon960456 — On Jul 10, 2014

That will teach me to cut back (too much I guess. Lots of foot cramps lately) on my food. It must be a lack of bananas, meat, milk and other potassium rich foods causing this. I'm sure as heck getting plenty of water.

By anon952561 — On May 21, 2014

Try eating a spoonful or two of mustard; it makes the cramps disappear almost instantly.

By anon347130 — On Sep 04, 2013

I have had foot cramps all my life, as did my mother and most of my siblings. One thing stopped them for two years: I had therapy for a bad ankle that included electric muscle/nerve stimulation. At first, the electric "shock" felt like it would cause a cramp, but it didn't. The feeling though, is a lot like how the cramp begins and I think my brain learned how to make it let go, just as the electric impulse would let go. This worked for two years. I am wondering if another round of "therapy" would help again?

By anon319807 — On Feb 14, 2013

Recently I was getting these bad cramps. I found that when I take a sachet of Eno they quickly go away.

By anon306372 — On Nov 29, 2012

Any kind of cramp can be relieved (and actually prevented) by taking apple cider vinegar with the mother (pulp), putting two tbsp in eight ounces of warm water and drink. It does take some all right, a lot of getting used to, but ACV is a great natural remedy for cramps, and acid reflux.

Research the medicinal qualities of apple cider vinegar and see for yourself.

By anon275239 — On Jun 17, 2012

I think I have the worst cramps anyone can get, although they are not really making me bedridden, but I get a cramp almost every time if I have my legs folded for a half hour. I get cramps in my hands when I'm sleeping. Sometimes I can't feel my hands for several minutes when I wake up.

I also get cramps in my bum, and recently I also got a cramp in my skull! Can you believe it? I woke up to the cramp in my skull. Maybe it was the skin area. I don't know, but I felt it on my scalp.

By anon271591 — On May 27, 2012

I have a chronic low level of circulation in the smaller toes of my right foot -- feels a little cold with very slight pins and needles all the time. Every once in a while, I wake up with the most severe cramp in my right toes -- makes me cry if I just lie there or try to massage it out.

As soon as I stand up, it goes away. Potassium, which generally helps me with any muscle cramps, doesn't help this particular cramp. Omega 3 (flaxseed) oil massaged into my skin wherever it's thin (underside of elbows and knees) prevented this cramp until recently when I started doing a lot more exercise.

I think the exercise is taxing my body. From all the posts I've read here, it looks like some kind of nutritional or water deficiency can be the key. Couple that with low circulation to the foot when sleeping, so that it really experiences a deficiency, and the result is a cramp.

By anon266276 — On May 04, 2012

Try getting in a hot bath as hot as you can stand to relieve foot and leg cramps. This helps me.

By anon239873 — On Jan 11, 2012

I have suffered foot cramps for 60 years. As I get older, I seem to get them by just using a different pair of shoes for the day. I get them in the tops of my feet, my toes, arch, and often calves and shins. Heat always helps and just putting the hottest water in the tub and standing in it also helps. Advil or anything of that type helps.

But my lifesaver is Absorbine Jr. If they ever quit making that I don't know what I'd do. It works almost instantly with very little effort. I don't even have to get out of bed. I just use their applicator bottle to roll it on, give it a couple of minutes to dry and get that foot/leg warm. It's a miracle! I just wish I could eliminate what causes the cramps in the first place, but I've never found out what that is.

By anon183721 — On Jun 06, 2011

I had tried tonic water, regular exercise and increasing salt intake for my terrible cramps. Then someone made a suggestion that has transformed my life, especially my life in bed: good old water!

I'm not the first to mention it in this discussion but if you haven't tried this, the please, please do. The effects were immediate. Now I drink two liters of tap water every day and have no more cramps.

By anon180171 — On May 25, 2011

I used to get terrible cramps but have recently started using magnesium oil. It works wonders! MagSorb is the best I've tried.

By anon176985 — On May 17, 2011

My toes cramp even when I am resting but the worst cramps are when I get them across the front of my shins. I've had bad calf muscle cramps but these shin cramps are unbelievably cruel and I don't know why and how they can be so bad when the muscle isn't big across this area of the leg? Help!

By anon175736 — On May 13, 2011

For foot cramps, borage oil capsules are very good.

By anon172763 — On May 04, 2011

I went to a doctor for horrible cramping in the arch of my foot just above the heel. I mostly got it at night. He told me its from wearing boots (or shoes) that are flat on bottom w/ no arch support. It usually occurs more often in winter because most boots have very little arch support.

His prescription was to:

1. Soak foot in warm water with epsom salt for 15 minutes, then:

2. Roll foot over a golf ball (esp. where the pain is) for a while then:

3. Stretch my calves on a step by allowing my heel to hang down over a stair/ step.

4. Flex the big toe up so that it is pointing at my knee (this stretches calf and arch.)

I repeat steps 1-4 about 3-4 times a day.

Also I increased my calcium and vitamin D intake. It took about three or four weeks, but slowly my pain subsided. I get no more cramps and now I'm pain free and I walk every day. (But still continue stretches).

Also, I got Dr. Scholls foot orthotics (arch support) which helped tremendously. I take them out of one shoe and put them into whatever shoe a want to wear that day. They give me the arch support I need.

By anon167761 — On Apr 13, 2011

i don't get cramps very often, but i feel they are frequent enough that i should look into it. They're mostly in my feet, lasting about a minute. There were maybe two times that my legs (both at the same time, never just one) cramped up while i was sleeping and i woke up in so much pain in the middle of the night!

I'm really hoping that I'm only malnourished (like, i hardly ever take vitamins or eat balanced meals). I'm 15, so I'll try to eat more bananas and take my vitamins.

By anon167592 — On Apr 13, 2011

Every time I start to exercise I get the worst cramps in my feet. I'm not physically tired, but my feet hurt so bad I have to stop. I take vitamins, and have great support shoes. Does anyone have any solutions for this?

By anon165982 — On Apr 06, 2011

Sometimes my foot just starts spasming and the fingers on my foot go straight and it kills me!

By anon163188 — On Mar 26, 2011

I'm in my 50's now and have suffered from foot cramps since in my 20's. I've also had neck cramps. Nothing alleviate the cramps until I started taking potassium and filled up on as much electrolytes as I could. I also stretch my legs a couple hours before bedtime.

By anon159249 — On Mar 11, 2011

I can accurately predict what my blood potassium level is going to be just from foot cramps. If my K+ level goes below 2.4 I start feeling it in my hands as well.

By anon157935 — On Mar 05, 2011

I have been doing the slimming world diet for two years but every Thursday after being weighed I cheat and eat lots starting with a takeaway and then lots of chocolate and biscuits. I wake up every Thursday night in agony with cramp in my toes and calves. I know it has got to be something to do with what I eat on Thursdays but I do not know what. Even it I cheat on a Friday and eat lots of junk food I do not get cramp. I know this sounds stupid but it is true.

By anon157836 — On Mar 04, 2011

I woke up one night and it felt as if my legs had casts on them, they were so so heavy. I was also having cramping in feet and legs, and my doctor did bloodwork and I had severe Low levels of magnesium. He prescribed a large dose of magnesium once in my system my legs felt normal again. I do travel with hubby on a semi so I know this is not good. My doctor also suggested to wear the Teds socks, the white ones you get after surgery and to wear the compression sock too. I can wear my white ones at night and the others during the day.

Good luck to all. As I sit my feet are cramping and have all night last night. I have been off my meds and misplaced my socks, need to find them quick. I am also a diabetic Type 2 I have heard metformin will also do this, I have been on that for four years.

By anon157724 — On Mar 04, 2011

I have gotten foot cramps in the past but then they went away. But now they are back. Last night was the worst night ever of a massive foot cramping in my right foot. I tried to massage it away but kept coming back.

Finally, I took some vitamins, aspirin and put a large pillow under my foot. But the severe pain of the cramps lasted for hours before then. The pillow helped I think. Thank you for the other suggestions.

By anon154944 — On Feb 22, 2011

I'll try the quinine water. Waking up in pain is not healthy.

By anon149990 — On Feb 06, 2011

I often get foot cramps when I lie down. Lately I have been getting them when I am driving. At home have a tennis ball handy and stand or sit and roll the ball on the bottom of my foot. Sometimes I press, too. When driving, if I can make it to a stop sign, I take my shoe off and rub the arch on the pedal or massage.

By anon139192 — On Jan 03, 2011

I've worked it out that i get foot and leg cramps after eating hash browns, or shop bought fried chips. this could be because of the high sodium (salt )levels in processed food.

By anon127197 — On Nov 15, 2010

I have leg and foot cramps mostly waking every hour at night. I had a sacroiliac joint injection for spinal stenosis three years ago and it helped for two years. I received another joint injection two weeks ago.

the pain in the thighs have stopped but at night I`m awakened every hour w/ foot cramps and cramps below the knee.

I saw my doctor last week and he said the foot crams had nothing to do with the stenosis and to go back to my GP. Probably in potassium or magnesium maybe non electrolytes. I had a complete physical with blood work three weeks ago and I was fine. I'm tired of guessing and have just called my GP and will leave it to the professionals. --Linda

By anon119479 — On Oct 18, 2010

i had foot cramps all my life since the age of ten, and it's usually at night. my doc prescribed me calcium tablets to eat every day. it worked wonders and the foot cramps just disappeared. i started taking them for two months and i skip for one week and foot cramps just came back. maybe it would help you.

By anon116131 — On Oct 05, 2010

Two things help me with foot and leg cramps. If they happen when I'm drinking more fluids, I take a teaspoon of salt in water, and the cramps go away immediately. That's probably because we need a balance of salt and water in our system.

The other thing that has helped tremendously is iodine. I take iodine pills from Amazon, Iodoral. It not only gets rid of foot cramps, but it has helped me with a host of other problems, like heart arrhythmia, ovarian cysts, cold feet/hands, tiredness, foggy brain, memory issues.

If you take it, just be sure you don't take it in the evening, or you'll get too much energy to sleep. It's a natural type energy.

By anon111401 — On Sep 16, 2010

thank you for all the possible solutions!

By anon108454 — On Sep 02, 2010

When I have foot cramps, my sister, who has worked in a pharmacy for 20 years, asks me to put mustard under my tongue, and then swallow it. this has worked for me.

By anon102377 — On Aug 07, 2010

I'm a runner and have run 38 marathons. Now my feet want to cramp up just by moving my toes once in a while. What can I do to fix this problem. I'm 60 and still running.

By anon99992 — On Jul 28, 2010

Sought help for cramps prior to holiday. Was given strong calcium/magnesium tablets. Chronic diarrhea while on holiday. Found out a high dosage of magnesium has severe laxative affect! No warnings on bottle, so caution required.

By anon98467 — On Jul 23, 2010

All of us kids in my family, plus both parents have had foot, toe and leg cramps for years. Go swimming and get them, sitting watching tv, get them, lying down in bed, get them, walking/running/biking/driving get them. I think it's something that just is. There's no way to fix it or change it.

I've tried everything, as has the rest of my family since the 1950s/1960s, and nothing works to correct the cramps.

By anon85542 — On May 20, 2010

when i curl my toes for too long, my foot like gets stiff and it is very painful. it's not really a cramp but its like my toes are stuck together. i had a panic attack because it had happened the night before and i was so scared it would happen again. it hurts on the inside side of my feet.

By anon85218 — On May 19, 2010

I too, have horrible foot and leg cramps. Do not tuck in your blankets. The sheets and blankets tend to hold your feet in an abnormal position.

It did help but they still come and go. Thanks for all the good tips.

P.S.: Can changing the style of your shoe (from flat to heel) be a troublemaker, also?

By anon79122 — On Apr 21, 2010

I have noticed that with age my leg and foot cramps appeared out of nowhere, and asked myself what i did differently. The answer was alcohol combined with not enough intake of water. Or alcohol abuse, period.

My circulation went bad, and in my drunken state, I had to embark on a pretty interesting quick walk around the house and neighborhood, preferably with stairs up and down, to stop the immense pain. Solution? not to over-drink and sit by the TV or PC, or ensure you drink a very healthy amount of water (which gets you up from the sofa to get the water and regularly urinate). If you do have to drink more alcohol than you need while sitting stationary without moving your legs. This also works well for fat people who don't drink alcohol but sit all the time.

By anon78397 — On Apr 18, 2010

Leg cramps and foot cramps can also be caused by a deficiency of calcium and Vitamin D, thus causing the body to take it from the bones.

By anon78287 — On Apr 18, 2010

I have started walking again after having breast cancer. Now I get pain in my feet when I am walking. It feels like muscle cramps and it almost makes me fall down. I know I need to lose weight. I am just wondering, if that is why my feet hurt and cramp?

By anon78211 — On Apr 17, 2010

Has anyone attributed foot/toe, sometimes finger cramping to taking any particular medication? I've eliminated most causes except meds. Cramping is mild but annoying, especially when driving.

By anon77991 — On Apr 16, 2010

Thanks for all your posts. I'm going to get me a bar of soap, tonic water and bananas and hope it works.

By anon77188 — On Apr 13, 2010

If you get foot or leg cramps in bed at night, try putting a bar of soap under your top sheet near your foot/leg. It will stop the cramping, believe it or not! My husband and I tried this and it works! I have no idea why!

By anon75775 — On Apr 07, 2010

foot cramps are the result of poor circulation, i just had a doppler testing done, see a bone specialist who specializes in the bones of the feet. The pulse rate in my foot is 3.6. I am told that a shunt can be inserted in the foot so the blood flow will return to normal. the only shoes I can wear are crocs, where the foot receives enough oxygen. see your doctor.

By anon75704 — On Apr 07, 2010

You can try drinking an electrolyte replacement drink. My fiance uses one from a company called Advocare, named Rehydrate. It has a 1:1 sodium to potassium ratio and other essential minerals and vitamins like magnesium and calcium that help move water into and out of your cells.

By anon75460 — On Apr 06, 2010

I have had three knee replacements and the last one is about six months old. Suddenly three weeks ago i started having severe cramps in the arch of my foot. Why? I have had my iron and potassium tested and they are fine.

By anon75287 — On Apr 06, 2010

I have foot and leg cramps (not every night). When I do, all the muscles in both my legs cramp so badly that they become rock hard and my feet twist around in a grotesque manner, and I can't stand up. This is so painful -- all I can do is cry and try to massage my muscles, but is is very difficult when both legs are cramped.

Usually when it subsides, I fall back to sleep, only to be awakened again with the same problem. It makes for a tiring next day.

By anon74831 — On Apr 04, 2010

Go to the grocery store and by mineral water (tonic water) sold in the aisle with the pop or liquor as it is used in mixed drinks. There you can replace the quinine you can't get from the doctor anymore.

By anon74829 — On Apr 04, 2010

Drink some mineral water, it has quinine in it and helps a bunch.

By anon74495 — On Apr 02, 2010

I get cramps in my toes and what feels like nerves jumping in my lower legs. it always happens mainly when I'm in bed and it wakes me up. It's very, very painful. i have tried pills called crampex but they don't seem to work.

Has anyone got any ideas as to what i can do to stop this awful pain?

By anon73429 — On Mar 27, 2010

i have been getting foot cramp now every day.It lasts longer each time happens a lot when im driving which worries me because i always need to stop my car its very painful to i can get it up to five times a day.

By anon73166 — On Mar 25, 2010

I have had cramps in my feet for years. So bad my toes twisted into a very deformed shape. I couldn't walk when that happened.

After years of suffering, without any answers from doctors, I found the answer. A heating pad on my feet. The heat warms the muscle and relaxes it. Works great every time!

By anon73137 — On Mar 25, 2010

The doctor told me to drink tonic water because it has quinine in it. Drinking it regularly really helps. When the cramps are really bad I take a potassium pill and Excedrin. At least I am able to go back to sleep. The cramps on top of the foot, under the arch and in the toes are the worst!

By anon72283 — On Mar 22, 2010

I get cramps in both feet, legs and thighs. It's really painful and can last for up to ten minutes. It occurs mostly when I'm sitting or lying down and wakes me up most nights, even from a deep sleep. I have to raise both feet and circle them until the spasms subside, however, it's getting me down and don't think I can stand it much longer.

This started about ten months ago. Even walking and exercise don't relieve the cramping. Please help.

By anon71262 — On Mar 17, 2010

I always have foot cramps while I am roller skating. I researched and found that Ugg style boots cause foot cramping.

By anon66414 — On Feb 19, 2010

Found a cure for mine. I used to have nocturnal leg and foot cramps several times a week. I have not had any at all since I started taking L-arginine capsules.

They are available over the counter in the supplement section of most stores near the pharmacy section. I find that I only need to take one 500mg capsule per day to keep my leg cramps under control. You should consult your doctor before taking L-arginine or any other supplement to make sure it is not contra-indicated for any medical conditions that you might have.

By anon65864 — On Feb 16, 2010

Even if you eat six bananas a week, that doesn't necessarily mean that your potassium levels are high. Your body may not be digesting it properly. Taking electrolytes and drinking extra water has really helped me to control my foot cramps.

By anon65060 — On Feb 10, 2010

This may sound odd, but worked for me and definitely no side effects. I was having foot cramps at night so badly that I would have to get up and walk them off. I was told to place a bar of soap in my bed at the bottom of my feet. I did and haven't had a problem since. I don't know the science behind this, but worked for me and my mom.

By anon65030 — On Feb 10, 2010

Low levels of magnesium are linked with foot cramps.

By anon63524 — On Feb 02, 2010

I get them when I am in a Pilates class -or occasionally swimming.

My potassium levels should be good(as I eat about six bananas a week!), as is my general diet and hydration levels.

My foot suffered from a slight deformity and widening of the toes when I had 'junior arthritis' - leaving them slightly wide, i.e. splayed out, and, perhaps, subject to curl around themselves.

I suppose they - or it - my left one, can do with a good massage. I am going to see if that helps it. :)

By anon61384 — On Jan 19, 2010

Cold weather causing foot cramps may be because the cold causes the arteries in your feet to constrict when you are out in the cold. Warming the feet with a hot, moist towel should help relieve them. This works fast for foot cramps at night too: soak a towel in hot water, wring, and then stand on it.

By anon60124 — On Jan 12, 2010

I have been drinking tonic water, a tumbler every evening which contains quinine and this seems to have made all the difference to leg and foot cramps.

By anon49146 — On Oct 18, 2009

I cheer for the varsity team at my high school and the games just started getting cold. i get foot cramps regularly so i am used to it, but we cheered our first very, very cold game last night and the cramps wouldn't stop. i ended up having to sit out the last half of the game and cried because of it. Both my feet would curl up and twist and when someone would try to massage it out it was like my foot was rock solid and wouldn't move. Please can you help me?

By temeki — On Oct 14, 2009

I get cramps almost everyday in the evening and sometimes in the middle of my sleep. They are so painful and my toes get twisted. I get the cramps on both legs at the same time and it is quite painful.

By anon48609 — On Oct 13, 2009

I have been getting foot cramps regularly for about a month. My husband says it can be low potassium.

By anon48380 — On Oct 12, 2009

I used to referee football games and would often wake up in the middle of the night with severe leg cramps. I learned pouring some salt into my hand and licking it off would relieve the cramp almost immediately. When calling games I would sleep with the salt shaker within arm's reach. Hope this helps.

By anon46216 — On Sep 23, 2009

I was awakened last night with my right food cramping. I got up and soon it disappeared; however, after about 10 minutes both feet began to cramp. I noticed that the veins on top of my feet were enlarged. I took two aspirins and the pain left.

By anon38696 — On Jul 27, 2009

I get foot, legs, toes and hand cramps. What should I do? Quinine is no longer available. I took so many differrnt medications and they are not helping at all. Any suggestions?

By anon37849 — On Jul 22, 2009

when i am in bed at night it is like i get a severe charlie horse on the top of my foot. it wakes me up. it is also happening behind my right knee. what can cause this???

By anon36711 — On Jul 14, 2009

It's not as much foot cramps as my toes curl and the only relief is standing. They also wake me up cramping.

By anon35942 — On Jul 08, 2009

i also have foot cramps at night,my ankles twist as if they are having a spasm.

By luna49 — On Jul 01, 2009

I get foot cramps when I sleep, sometimes - I wonder if that's caused by decreased circulation. The cramp usually goes away pretty quickly if I flex my foot repeatedly, or if I get up and walk around for a few minutes.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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