Man experiencing a painful foot cramp

What Causes Foot Cramps and How to Prevent Them

Man experiencing a painful foot cramp

Foot cramps are more than a nuisance when they occur, but many people don't know what causes foot cramps and how to avoid them. If you've experienced them before, then you're probably familiar with how they feel like a debilitating issue that leaves you struggling to find a way to relieve the pain and discomfort for more than a few minutes. When you deal with foot cramps frequently, they can become exhausting physically and mentally. From leaving your muscles sore to feeling a little weak afterward, the common occurrence is one that nobody enjoys. 

Today we're going to be discussing common causes and inflictions that lead to foot cramps and how you can prevent potential cramps in the future. These methods of prevention can act as soothing antidotes to the otherwise annoying and uncomfortable experience of sudden foot cramps

In This Article You'll Find:

  • What Causes Foot Cramps
  • What Causes Foot Cramps at Night
  • Remedies for Foot and Leg Cramps
  • 2 Exercises to Prevent Foot Cramps

What Causes Foot Cramps

Caused by a variety of changes in your body, foot cramps can occur whether you're walking and being acting, sitting down relaxing, or even when you're asleep. When cramping in your foot happens, it's often the result of the muscles in your foot tensing up or squeezing and may create a painful feeling in your foot and even lower leg. 

Foot cramps can happen for a multitude of reasons, including long periods of inactivity, dehydration, overexertion, nutrient deficiencies, pregnancy and more. When your body is lacking or is depleted of fluids and electrolytes, it may cause your muscles to experience spasms and cramps. Sometimes, drinking water or a light Gatorade, eating fruit, and massaging or stretching the muscles can help alleviate pain and tension in your feet, helping to rid foot cramps caused by low nutrition levels. 

Woman experiencing a painful foot cramp

What Causes Foot Cramps at Night

Are you experiencing restless nights where sudden foot cramps occur and jolt you awake? It may be caused by a lack of circulation that's mimicking cramps. Foot and ankle cramps at night may also be the result of medication you take before bed.

Occasionally, you may find that things such as low blood pressure can deplete your body of electrolytes, which can lead to sudden foot cramps.   If you're experiencing muscle cramps in your feet multiple times a week, then it may be beneficial to consult with your doctor. 

Foot cramps at night may not always feel painful and could present with jumpy legs or a slight burning sensation rather than feeling like your muscles are tense. When this happens, the muscle cramps in your foot are likely caused by inactivity throughout the day. Your foot and ankle, and even your legs, may feel a little jumpy or uncomfortable due to sitting or standing in one place for too long earlier in the day without enough stretching or movement. Simply walking around a little every few hours or implementing a stretching routine before bed can help relieve some of the stress and tension in your muscles. 

Remedies for Foot and Leg Cramps

Relieving the discomfort of foot cramps isn't as difficult as you'd expect it to be. While foot cramps feel similar to having an injury in the moment, they're very different and can often be treated at home. Many times, you can relieve the stress and pain of foot and ankle cramps by doing small things such as changing out your shoes. If you often wear elevated heels, alternate your footwear and opt for some flat or zero-drop soles.

Another solution to frequent or sudden foot cramps is evaluating your diet. A lack of potassium and magnesium are common culprits behind muscle cramps, so if you add bananas, dark leafy greens, dark chocolate or nuts to your diet you may feel relief in the tension in your feet. 

2 Exercises to Prevent Foot Cramps

Sometimes you may not have time or feel like getting out and running laps or going to the gym, and that's okay. You can still utilize light exercises to avoid and prevent foot cramps from occurring or to help reduce the pressure or soreness caused by muscle cramps in your foot. These exercises can be completed at home and require no extra equipment aside from your helping hands.

Toe Extensions

Stretching and practicing toe extensor stretches may also assist in stopping or preventing foot cramps from occurring. This remedy can be done first thing in the morning, before bed, or throughout the day as needed. Follow these steps comfortably.

  1. Focus on one foot at a time, bringing your leg up to cross your other leg so that your foot is in your lap.
  2. From there, cover your toes with one hand and gently push and pull them down until you can see the "knuckles" of your foot.
  3. Then gently push your toes upwards and place your thumb from your other hand into the middle or upper arch of your foot.

Repeat this several times, repeating for as long as you're comfortable. If you feel more pain or cramping while practicing this stretch, stop and let your foot have time to recover before trying again.

Foot and Ankle Rotations

Practicing ankle rotations twice a day while sitting can help strengthen muscles in your feet as well as surrounding your ankle. The exercise only takes a few minutes and can be performed throughout the day with ease. 

  1. Sit down in a way that allows you to stretch out your legs without your feet touching the floor. This may best be done in a chair or off the edge of your bed. 
  2. Using one foot at a time and leading with your big toe, begin writing each letter of the alphabet into the air. 

If these light exercises to prevent foot cramps don't help, you can always reach out to your doctor for advice and try utilizing solutions like a percussion massage gun or a foot massager to help give your muscles a little extra workout that feels like a massage.