Get a paper cut and you can still go about your day, but get foot cramps? You’re essentially immobile … ouch! Your feet are home to more than 100 muscles, ligaments, and tendons.1 Your foot muscles work hard each day to help you walk. Unfortunately, these muscles can sometimes contract, or spasm, causing painful foot cramps that can disrupt your day.
The exact cause of foot cramps is unknown. They can increase with age, especially for adults over 60.2 Pregnant women are also prone to foot cramps, particularly near the end of their pregnancies. Some foot and leg cramps happen more often at night. Foot cramps can also happen as a result of intense exercise, such as running a marathon.
Foot cramps are usually brief, but they can last up to 10 minutes.3 If you’re prone to foot cramps, you know how painful and annoying they can be. Here are five tips to help you get rid of foot cramps and prevent cramping in the future:
1. Make Sure You’re Hydrated
Dehydration has long been blamed for muscle cramps. Making sure to get enough fluids is an easy and inexpensive way to prevent foot cramps. Your body loses water constantly, especially during exercise. Not taking in enough water to replace what you’ve lost leads to dehydration – a serious condition that can cause headaches, dizziness, and muscle cramps.4
In general, make sure to drink water whenever you’re thirsty. Drink plenty of water and other liquids throughout the day, rather than all at once. Also, make sure to drink more water in hot weather and when you’re exercising (especially if it’s outdoors).
2. Take Care of Your Feet
Use common sense to keep your feet healthy! Wear comfortable and supportive shoes, keeping in mind that high heels and flip flops make your muscles work differently than more supportive shoes (and not in a good way). Wearing improper shoes is one of the main causes of foot pain and cramps, so choose your shoes wisely.5
People who are prone to foot cramps should stretch their feet regularly. One way to stretch is by flexing and pointing your feet and ankles while you’re seated. Try rolling a golf ball back and forth on the floor to use the muscles at the bottom of your feet.6
Massage is another way to take care of your feet. Apply gentle pressure to the bottom of your feet each night, using foot lotion if you desire.
3. Drink Pickle Juice
It’s probably not your first choice for a tasty beverage, but pickle juice may be able to help ease your foot cramps. A study from Brigham Young University demonstrated the effectiveness of pickle juice on muscle cramps. A machine stimulated muscle cramps in study participants, and during the cramp, participants drank pickle juice. The pickle juice successfully reduced the duration of the cramp. Researchers theorize that muscle cramps are caused by neurons firing in the brain. Pickle juice is thought to stop the neurons from firing, effectively stopping the muscle cramp.7
4. Get Plenty of Vitamins & Minerals
Cramping may be caused by vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Calcium and vitamin D work together for healthy bones, and insufficient intake of either can lead to foot cramps.8 The National Institutes of Health recommends:
- 1,000 mg of calcium daily for all adults ages 19 to 50, and for men up to age 70.
- Women ages 50 and up and men over 70 should consume 1,200 mg of calcium each day.9
- Adults up to age 70 need 600 international units of vitamin D. Those over 70 need 800 international units.10
Calcium is available in dairy foods, some green vegetables, and calcium-fortified foods. Vitamin D is present in very few foods, so many people need supplements.
Other common deficiencies that can cause cramping include magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, and vitamin E.11 People taking some prescription medications, such as certain types of diuretics, may be at risk for potassium deficiency.12 If you think you may be deficient in one or more of these vitamins, you may wish to take a supplement or multivitamin. Consult your doctor before starting supplements.
5. Talk to Your Doctor
Additionally, foot cramps can be caused or exacerbated by some medical conditions.13 If you have frequent, painful foot cramps, consult your doctor. Certain types of prescription medications may also cause foot cramping.14 It is important not to stop taking the medications you have been prescribed. Speak to your doctor about alternative medications that may help stop your foot cramps.
No one likes having to deal with foot cramps, but they do happen from time to time. These five tips can help you deal with the foot cramps you have and prevent cramping in the future.