Understanding and Living with Foot Cramps


Also known as “charley horses,” foot cramps happen when a muscle stiffens and can’t relax on its own. While they rarely relate to a more serious problem, they are painful. Read on to learn what causes cramps and what you can do to prevent and relieve them.

What Causes Cramps?

Men and women are at equal risk of muscle cramps, although they do tend to occur more frequently in older people. Your foot and calf muscles – or any other muscle in your body – can spasm or cramp at any time of day or night, whether you are engaged in activity or at rest.. 

Below are five common causes of muscle cramps:

  1. Insufficient stretching. 
  2. Dehydration.
  3. Poor nutrition. 
  4. Poor circulation. 
  5. Questionable footwear choices. 

Here are some tips from James M. McKee, DPM, FACFAS to help keep your foot and leg cramps to a minimum:

  • Take time to stretch each day to keep muscles strong and supple. This is especially important before and after exercise. Try adding gentle yoga or tai chi to your weekly schedule.
  • Stay well hydrated. Water is best! Make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and sugary beverages, which actually reduce hydration levels.
  • Eat a balanced diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables. Be sure to include leafy greens and bananas, which provide important trace minerals that help minimize the risk of cramps.
  • If you have diabetes or another problem that causes circulation issues in your extremities, you are more at risk for leg and foot cramps. Be sure to take all medication as prescribed and move often.
  • Choose practical shoes with a low, wide heel, excellent arch support, and rubber soles for everyday wear. Save those high heeled stilettos for special occasions.

Stopping a Cramp in Progress

There are some simple ways to manage a cramp as it occurs:

  • If you are able, stand up and move around. Move the affected area to a different position than the one that it’s in. This is often enough to relax the cramping muscles.
  • If the cramp is in your calf, flex, don’t point, your ankle. Pointing can make the cramp worse.
  • Warming the affected area should help increase circulation and relax the muscle. Use a hot water bottle or heating pad or try a warm bath.
  • If your doctor has approved it, take an over the counter anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen.

If you have a concern about cramps or anything else related to the health of your feet, ankles, or lower legs, click here or call Podiatry Group of Annapolis, P.A. at 410-224-4448 to schedule a convenient appointment with foot doctor Dr. James M. McKee in our comfortable Annapolis, MD office on Solomons Island Road.