What Causes Toe Cramps? 7 Possible Reasons

Who Are Prone To Toe Cramps?


  • Athletes
  • Infants
  • Individuals over the age of 60
  • Pregnant women

Toe cramps or sudden muscle spasms in your toes which make them twist around each other can be a painful experience but, usually, not a serious health condition. Toe cramps can occur out of the blue, even when you’re at rest – sometimes jolting you awake – or when you’re performing exercises or tasks that involve your feet. A drink of water and a gentle massage is often all you need to fix the issue. If it happens very rarely, say a few times in a year, you have nothing to worry about. But if you experience toe cramps frequently, it’s important to figure out the underlying cause so that you can find an apt remedy. Here are some possible reasons why you’re toes might be cramping.

1. Wearing The Wrong Kind Of Shoes

More often than not, toe cramps are the result of wearing wrong shoes. If your shoes are too tight, they might cut off the blood circulation to your toes, thereby causing toe cramps. So, before buying footwear, ensure that they fit correctly and aren’t too tight on your toes. Sometimes, simply wearing the wrong type of shoe could trigger spasms. For example, if you’re running, make sure you invest in a good pair of sports shoes instead of trying to make do with your floaters.

2. Exercising Without A Warm-Up

If you’re a frequent runner, you tend to strain your feet during an intense run, making your toe muscles bear the brunt. Toe cramps can also occur when you’re suddenly active after a long period, such as the preseason or post-surgery. To prevent toe cramps, always stretch and warm up before you go for a run or perform strenuous exercises. Stretching extends the muscle fibers, letting them contract better during movement. Developing a regular stretching routine is the best thing you can do to keep your feet happy.1


3. Overexerting The Toe Muscles

You can end up straining your toe muscles even when you’re not doing heavy-duty exercises. Performing activities like heavy lifting, swimming, and biking can also cause toe cramps. The overexertion on your toe muscles leads to poor circulation, which in turn results in spasms.2

4. Wrong Posture While Sleeping

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. Nocturnal cramps can also lead to insomnia and exhaustion. Groups facing an increased risk of nighttime spasms include pregnant women and the elderly.3


To prevent experiencing toe cramps at night, sleep under loose covers. A blanket that’s smugly fit around you can also pull your feet downward and cause cramps. Sleeping on your stomach with your feet hanging over the bed can also help prevent nocturnal toe cramps.4

5. Dehydration

Even if you’ve warmed up and worn the right running shoes, you could experience cramps. When you go without water for long periods of time, your blood circulation is affected. And poor circulation, as discussed before, could cause toe cramps. It’s important to remain hydrated not just when you’re exercising but also otherwise. So, ensure that you drink at least 2 liters of water every day.5 Dehydration can also upset the balance of minerals and salts in your blood, leading to painful cramps.6


6. Nutritional Deficiency

Your diet could also be a contributing factor to toe cramps. Nutrients like potassium, magnesium, calcium, and vitamin D are essential for healthy muscle contraction.7 8 9 A deficiency of one or more of these nutrients could hinder proper muscle contraction and result in cramps.10 11

Toe cramps as a result of nutritional deficiency are common in the elderly people and pregnant women.12


7. Poor Blood Circulation

Wearing shoes of the incorrect size is not the only reason for poor blood circulation. Sometimes, something as mundane as sitting or standing for long periods of time can reduce the blood circulated to your toes, resulting in cramps. When circulation is poor, your toe muscles don’t get enough oxygen and nutrients. This results in painful cramps.

In some cases, poor circulation and toe cramps can also be symptoms of underlying conditions, such as diabetes, peripheral artery disease, hypertension, or Raynaud’s disease, you could be more prone to toe cramps.13 14 If you suffer from poor blood flow to the limbs, eat a couple of blocks of dark chocolate 2 hours before you start exercising. Chocolate improves blood circulation significantly.


Tips For Relief From Toe Cramps

What Causes Toe Cramps?

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

  • Gently flex your foot by pointing it upward. You can use your hand to guide your foot.
  • After the cramp subsides, carefully curl your toes inward to stretch them out.
  • Apply ice on the toe if the area 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 as this helps reduce the pain associated with cramps.

To reduce the occurrence of toe cramps, make sure you don’t stay inactive for long periods of time. Lightly stretch your feet and toes, especially before you perform exercises. Also, gently massage your toes every 2 hours to relieve stress and improve blood flow.