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Foot Cramps

Foot cramps are characterized by a painful yet harmless tightening of the muscles in the feet. The cramping usually happens suddenly and may take several minutes to dissipate.


Muscle cramps have the ability to affect any part of the body, your feet and toes being no exception. Cramping in the foot is characterized by a sudden tightening or contracting of the muscles in your foot. The involuntary spasm is usually sharp and painful (some people describe it as a “knotting”), and it may seem like the muscles cannot relax. Some foot cramps last a few seconds while others can last up to three or more minutes. Sometimes you can see the muscle violently contracting.


There are many causes of foot muscle strain. They include:


  • Over-exertion, muscle fatigue and stress
  • Mineral deficiency (specifically too little calcium, magnesium, potassium and Vitamin D)
  • Poor circulation
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Hormonal imbalances (including hormone changes caused by pregnancy)
  • Dehydration
  • Certain medications, including diuretics and cholesterol-lowering medicines
  • Uncomfortable or ill-fitting shoes
  • Thyroid gland imbalances
  • Pinched nerves
  • Age, with people over the age of 80 experiencing foot and toe cramps most often

Treatment and Prevention

Muscle cramps are usually harmless, but because the sudden contractions can cause severe pain, there are several recommended actions you can do to decrease their frequency. They include:


  • Massaging and stretching the foot muscles on a daily basis
  • Increasing the levels of calcium, magnesium, sodium and Vitamin D in your diet (which can be done via supplements or by increasing your consumption of dairy products, almonds, bananas, broccoli and spinach)
  • Stretching before and after sports, exercise and physical activity
  • Wearing comfortable shoes that don’t strain your foot muscles
  • Breaking in new shoes slowly until they fit properly
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Maintaining a healthy diet low in sugar and caffeine

At the onset of a foot cramp, you should try gently massaging your foot and flexing the muscles. It is best to halt physical activity during a cramp, as continuing to move could cause the muscle to tear.


If you are experiencing recurring foot or toe cramps (happening daily or several times per week), you should visit your doctor or a podiatrist. Foot cramps are considered benign, but recurring cramps could be a symptom of an underlying health problem.


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