Cramps in the feet: How they occur and what helps against them

Krämpfe in den Füßen: Wie sie entstehen und was dagegen hilft

Foot cramps are very painful. They often occur without prior notice, during intense exercise or at night. The causes for this can be very diverse, but often the reason is not an illness.

In our comprehensive guide to foot cramps, we explain what a cramp actually is and what causes it. We will also show you which useful measures can be used to successfully prevent cramps or at least reduce the pain. But one thing is particularly important: If you are plagued by frequent cramps, see a doctor. We cannot diagnose.

the essentials in brief

  • A cramp is a sensation of pain that lasts from a few seconds to a few minutes. It can appear on the feet, legs, abdomen or hands.
  • The cause of cramps is not fully understood. Dehydration, alcohol, or a lack of electrolytes can be the cause, as can a nervous system disorder or diabetes. However, a cramp is often associated with the former and not with an illness
  • It is relatively easy to prevent foot cramps: through a healthy and balanced diet, avoiding alcohol and drinking enough fluids. When doing sports, stretching and the intake of electrolytes can also prevent cramps.

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Definition: What is a cramp?

A cramp is a pain sensation that lasts from a few seconds to a few minutes. Most cramps occur in the calves, but they can also occur in the feet or other parts of the body. (1)

Cramps often just happen without being a symptom of an illness. But they can also be symptoms of spasticity, restless leg syndrome or another disease. (1.3)

Cramps are particularly uncomfortable at night, as they significantly affect the quality of sleep. Therefore, preventive measures are necessary, possibly even treatment with medication (1)

A normal spasm must be distinguished from a seizure. This is often triggered by epilepsy or a metabolic disease. A fever can also trigger a seizure in children. (2)

This article only addresses spasm according to the first definition, not seizure. If you're having frequent seizures, see a doctor. This article is for informational purposes only and is in no way diagnostic.

Background: What you should know about the causes of foot cramps

Before we recommend specific solutions to combat cramps, we will first answer the most frequently asked questions about foot cramps.

You should read these carefully before you move on to the solution part. In this way you acquire knowledge and can solve your personal problem better.

What causes foot cramps?

There is usually no exact cause for the occurrence of cramps in the feet. It can occur as a result of illness or exercise, but it can also occur in any other situation. It is important to know that the cramp does not necessarily occur at the site of the cause, but can occur anywhere in the body. (5)

The following causes can have cramps in the feet. We have explained the causes in more detail below the list.

  • Too hard training
  • dehydration
  • lack of electrolytes
  • Wrong footwear
  • Diseases such as diabetes or neurological disorders
  • Excessive alcohol consumption


Another cause of cramps can be alcohol consumption: If you celebrated properly the night before, cramps in your feet are more likely to occur. The cause lies in the dehydration of the body from alcohol. This removes water and minerals from the body, which promotes cramps.(6,12)

The causes of cramps are very diverse.

Wrong footwear can also cause cramps. Women, who often wear heels, are particularly affected.

A change in hormone levels can also trigger cramps in the feet. These symptoms can occur especially during pregnancy. But taking birth control pills also changes hormone levels. It is therefore essential to contact the doctor if the cramps have started when you take the pill.

Can a cramp be dangerous?

This question is not easy to answer. A cramp goes away after a few minutes. Often cramps in the feet or cramps in other places occur without a cause. (5)

A cramp can also be triggered by an underactive thyroid. This is a disease that can be well treated. In children, however, it can lead to developmental disorders of the body and mind. (9,10,11)

This article is intended as a guide only and cannot in any way provide a diagnosis. Therefore, as always, if you often have problems with cramps in your feet or in other places, make an appointment with a doctor.

When do the cramps in the feet appear?

Foot cramps can happen anywhere, anytime. They often occur after exercise or at night. Even science is still unclear as to how cramps develop and what triggers them. (3)

Muscle cramps often affect people who are otherwise healthy.

They are also more common in older people. Young people are often affected after intense physical exertion. The exact causes are currently unknown. Due to the uncertainty in research, it is very difficult to pinpoint an exact strategy for treating foot cramps.

Where do foot cramps occur?

Cramps commonly affect the calves but can also affect the feet or even just the toes. They can affect both feet or just one. This varies greatly from person to person. Cramps can also occur in the abdomen. (7)

What Foods Cause Cramps in Your Feet?

There are no studies showing that foods are responsible for cramps. However, it can be assumed that the oxalic acid is responsible for the fact that the body can absorb less magnesium. Ultimately, this can lead to the body having a magnesium deficiency. (8th)

There is a lack of studies showing that certain foods are responsible for foot cramps.

Thus, a foot cramp cannot be traced back to specific foods: rather, cramps are triggered by improper nutrition, since the body has too little of one food and not too much of another.

What deficiency causes cramps in the feet?

This section addresses specific deficiencies in electrolytes in the body that can cause foot cramps. We have already answered general causes of cramps above. (12)

magnesium deficiency

Magnesium is an elementary element that our body needs to survive. A magnesium deficiency can not only trigger foot cramps, but also have a supportive effect on a number of other diseases such as diabetes. Stroke or heart attack can also be triggered. (13)

It is therefore important that the body has enough magnesium. If this is true, the cause of the spasm may be elsewhere.

electrolyte deficiency

Not only the lack of magnesium can trigger cramps in the foot, but also the lack of other electrolytes such as potassium, sodium or calcium. However, this area has not yet been researched to such an extent and general studies are missing. Therefore, if you suspect an electrolyte deficiency, you should consult your doctor.

water shortage

When the body is deprived of too much fluid, it is called dehydration. This can also trigger a cramp. It is therefore important to drink enough water, especially on hot days and when exercising. These can even be enriched with electrolytes, which has an additional preventive effect to prevent cramps. (12)

Cramps in the feet: the best tools to get rid of them

A cramp often stems from minor things like an electrolyte deficiency or dehydration. Therefore, cramps are relatively easy to prevent and treat.

The following tips should help you to prevent your foot cramps. The same applies here: We are only writing a guide, if in doubt you should always consult a doctor.

What to do if you have frequent cramps in your feet?

If you have frequent foot cramps, it is worth going to the doctor, as cramps can be a symptom of an illness. A lack of electrolytes can also be determined by the doctor. However, it is important that you do not panic if you experience a cramp once, as the cramp is often not caused by an illness.

What to do if you have night cramps in your feet?

If you have night cramps in your feet, you can stretch your foot. This usually helps a lot. Alternatively, you can just wait for the cramp to pass, which will take a few minutes. Stretching before bed can also help prevent nighttime cramps. (12)

It is also helpful if you do not smoke and avoid caffeine in the evening. Especially if you train in the evening, you should drink enough before going to bed. If you generally do little exercise, regular stretching can prevent cramps in your feet. (12.14)

How to prevent foot cramps?

Regular stretching can significantly reduce cramps. But not only the number of cramps is reduced, but also the severity of the cramp, so stretching is definitely worthwhile. (14)

A balanced diet also means that foot cramps are less common. The intake of magnesium, potassium and other electrolytes is particularly important. The table below shows you the magnesium content of some foods

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  • Developed for people who often suffer from cramps 💪
  • Get a 21% discount now 💰*

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*The discount is automatically applied to the product

Groceries Magnesium content in MG per 100g
sunflower seeds 420mg
almonds 170mg
walnuts 129mg
oatmeal 134mg
rice 119mg
marzipan 120mg
Black chocolate 100mg


If you eat a balanced diet and eat nuts instead of chips in front of the TV, you reduce the risk of cramps. A balanced diet also has a positive impact on your general health.


Almonds contain a lot of magnesium and can thus prevent cramps in the feet (Source: CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash)

Alcohol removes minerals and water from the body. Avoiding alcohol has a positive effect on the occurrence of foot cramps. Therefore, you should not consume too much alcohol. If you do party, drink enough water to prevent a cramp. You also minimize the risk of a hangover. (6)

sports bottle

Drinking plenty of fluids during exercise prevents cramps (Source: CTRL - A Meal Replacement on Unsplash)

To minimize the risk of foot cramps after intense physical activity, you need to drink enough during exercise. Drinks with electrolyte powder, which contain a lot of magnesium, also help. You also need to get enough salt in your body. Additionally, stretching well before and after your workout will help keep your muscles from tightening and causing cramps. (16)

What home remedies help with foot cramps?

Real home remedies as for other ailments do not exist for cramps in the feet. However, you can stock up on food to eat a balanced diet. It is also worth having a bottle of water with you at all times to avoid dehydration.

What medications are there for foot cramps?

Since a cramp only lasts for a few minutes, taking painkillers is not worth it. However, there are other preparations that can at least treat the causes. These are particularly useful for balancing the electrolyte balance:

What Purpose of use
Magnesium Capsules Are taken at night and thus cover the magnesium requirement
Magnesium effervescent tablets For acute cramps, effervescent tablets can be taken
Electrolyte-containing beverages For sports training. This balances the salt and mineral levels in the body
quinine sulfate Treats the pain regardless of the cause, since it works directly at the junction of muscle and nerve

The effectiveness of the magnesium tablets has not yet been finally clarified. Although it has been proven to be helpful in surveys and experiments, a clinical study has not yet been able to measure a positive effect. Further studies are therefore needed to prove the clinical effectiveness. Taking magnesium for foot cramps is recommended by doctors worldwide. (17)

doctor accessories

Before taking any medication, you should consult a doctor (Source: Marcelo Leal on Unsplash)

Again, before you start taking medication, you should try all other measures. A healthy and balanced diet can contribute a lot. Also make sure that you drink enough and avoid excessive alcohol consumption.

Sport and stretching exercises will also help you. During strenuous exercise or if you sweat a lot, you can balance your electrolyte balance with drinks, but drinking a lot will help.

Before you actually treat your foot cramps with medication, you should discuss a possible medical condition with your doctor. After that, you should definitely follow his specifications and those of the manufacturer to avoid possible complications.


A cramp in the feet is undoubtedly a very uncomfortable experience and very painful. Fortunately, a cramp is over after a few minutes. There are many different causes of foot cramps: alcohol, dehydration or a lack of electrolytes are the minor causes. Cramps can also be triggered by serious illnesses such as diabetes or an underactive thyroid.

In order to prevent cramps in your feet as much as possible, you should eat a balanced diet. Sport can also have a preventive effect. During intensive physical activity you have to drink a lot and you can optionally add electrolytes to your drink. Stretching helps, even before bed. If none of these tips help, be sure to consult a doctor and clarify with him how to proceed.


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