Column: Common causes of foot and leg cramps


Commentary by Dr. David Sullivan

Do you experience painful cramps in your feet or legs? Muscle cramps of the feet and legs are most often felt in the arch of the foot and the calf of the leg but may include the toes. Here are some common reasons for foot and leg cramps:

Exercise and dehydration

Intense physical activity can make your muscles contract, resulting in a cramp in your foot or leg.

Insufficient fluid and electrolytes in your body can lead to muscle spasms and cramps, especially when exercising. Too much caffeine can also lead to dehydration and cause cramps. To prevent dehydration, try to drink 64 ounces of water daily. 

Shoes and hard surfaces

Pointy-toed shoes, high heels or shoes without proper support can induce fatigue and cramping in the foot muscles. Hard surfaces can intensify the problem. Restrictive footwear impedes blood flow and oxygen.

Medical conditions

Nerve disease, including peripheral neuropathy, can cause foot or leg cramps. With neuropathy, the nerves don’t send proper messages from the muscles to the brain, causing the muscles to fire or cramp at the wrong time.

Leg cramps are a classic symptom of peripheral arterial disease. With PAD, the arteries narrow, and the legs and feet don’t get enough oxygen to support activity. Leg cramps show up when walking or exercising, and the cramps improve when at rest. PAD is a serious medical condition and it’s crucial to be seen immediately.


Some of the most common medications include diuretics, statins and medications to lower blood pressure.


Diets low in potassium, calcium or magnesium, or deficiencies in vitamin B12 and vitamin D can cause foot and leg cramps. Another reason is excessive alcohol consumption.

Diagnosing foot and leg cramps

If your foot or leg cramps don’t improve, you should schedule an immediate appointment with our office. Once we see you, we can diagnose the cause of your cramps and get you on the path to feeling better!