What Causes Toe Cramps?

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Toe cramps can happen to anyone at any time. But how do you handle it? This type of muscle spasm can cause a lot of pain for a seemingly minor body part. Instead of just brushing it off, learn about these essential facts about toe cramps.

A toe cramp is a sudden, painful contraction of the muscles in the toe. It’s also a good reminder that you have muscles even here! The cramp usually happens out of the blue, even if you’re at rest. And while it typically doesn’t last long, a toe cramp can be extremely painful.1

Causes Of Toe Cramps

1. Dehydration

What Causes Toe Cramps?

Water is essential for your muscles and cells to function properly. But if you’re dehydrated, poor leg circulation can develop from muscle damage and weak blood flow.2 Dehydration will also upset the balance of minerals and salt, leading to annoying cramps.3

2. Nutritional Deficiency

What Causes Toe Cramps?

Potassium, magnesium, and calcium are essential minerals for healthy muscle contraction.4 5 6 This means that after the muscle contracts, it relaxes as a result.7 But without enough of these minerals, the muscles just keep contracting. The result is a painful toe cramp!8

Low vitamin D intake can also mess with muscle function. On a cellular level, this vitamin helps the muscle cells absorb calcium.9 So this also plays a role in toe cramps caused by deficiencies.

3. Running

What Causes Toe Cramps?

If you’re a frequent runner, constantly moving your legs will make you prone to toe spasms. They can also develop when you’re suddenly active after a long period, such as the preseason or post-surgery. To prevent this, always stretch before running. Stretching extends the muscle fibers, letting them contract better during movement. Developing a regular stretching routine is the best thing you can do to yourself.10

4. Overexertion

What Causes Toe Cramps?

Aside from running, other strenuous activities done with legs may cause toe cramps. Examples include heavy lifting, swimming, and biking. Pushing yourself too hard cuts off the oxygen to your muscles. This accumulates waste, sparking a spasm. Dehydration and the nutritional deficiencies mentioned earlier will make cramps even more likely.11

5. Poor Circulation

What Causes Toe Cramps?

When circulation is poor, the arteries in the muscle don’t get enough oxygen and nutrients. They need this to dilate properly! The muscles’ oxygen supply also gets cut off, allowing waste buildup. Normally, oxygen would have already removed the waste by itself.12

The toes and feet are vulnerable to this, especially if you sit or stand for a long time. Other causes behind poor circulation are diabetes, peripheral artery disease, hypertension, and Raynaud’s disease.13 14 15

6. Wrong Shoes

What Causes Toe Cramps?


Wearing ill-fitting shoes can make your toes cramp up. If they’re too tight, they will cut off your circulation and add extra pressure. You might even get spasms in your whole foot. Footwear that isn’t supportive also forces you to uncomfortably stand on hard surfaces.

What Causes Toe Cramps At Night?

What Causes Toe Cramps?

When you’re lying down at night on your back, the muscles in your leg shorten. The foot naturally points downward, stimulating the nerves and causing a painful cramp. In fact, about 60 percent of adults experience nocturnal leg spasms, some of which can reach the toes.

It can be a nightmare! Nocturnal cramps often lead to insomnia and exhaustion. Groups with the highest risk for getting nighttime spasms include pregnant women and the elderly.16

Tips To Get Relief

What Causes Toe Cramps?

While toe cramps usually go away on their own, they can be bothersome. Try these methods for natural relief:

  • Gently flex your foot by pointing it straight up. If you’d like, use your hand to lightly guide your foot.
  • After the cramp subsides, carefully curl your toes inward to stretch them out.
  • Apply ice if the toe feels sore and painful.
  • Apply a heat compress if the toe feels tight and tense.
  • Rub the toe with cypress, basil, lavender, peppermint, lemongrass, or rosemary essential oil.

Make it a habit to frequently stretch your toes. You can even do it while watching television or working at the computer. Massaging your feet and toes can also improve blood flow while relieving stress.

References   [ + ]

1.Hand or foot spasms, MedlinePlus
2.Ozkan, Isik and Cicioglu H. Ibrahim. Dehydration, skeletal muscle damage and inflammation before the competitions among the elite wrestlers. Journal of Physical Therapy Science 28.1(2016):162-168.
3.Legs Cramps – Causes, NHS Choices
4.Potassium, MedlinePlus
5.Magnesium in diet, MedlinePlus
6.Calcium, MedlinePlus
7.Webb, R. Clinton. Smooth Muscle Contraction and Relaxation. Advances in Physiology Education 27.4(2003):201-206.
8.Muscle cramps, MedlinePlus
9.Janssen, Hennie CJP, Monique M. Samson, and Harald JJ Verhaar. Vitamin D deficiency, muscle function, and falls in elderly people. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 75.4(2002):611-615.
10.Muscle Cramp, American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons
11.Hand or Foot Spasms, MedlinePlus
12.Exercise Hyperemia and Regulation of Tissue Oxygenation During Muscular Activity, National Center for Biotechnology Information
13.Diabetes – foot care, Better Health Channel
14.What Is Peripheral Artery Disease?, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
15.What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Raynaud’s?, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
16.Allen, Richard E. and Karl A. Kirby. Nocturnal Leg Cramps. American Academy of Family Physician 86.4(2012):350-355.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

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