Many of us have done it -- plunged right into an overambitious exercise program that left our muscles yelping. Foot cramps are one common result when your muscles are not ready for sudden activity. They can also be a sign that your muscles are not getting enough oxygen because your body is becoming dehydrated through perspiration. However, if you pay attention to what your body is telling you, it is not difficult to treat foot cramps.
You should drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after exercise. Sometimes a bio-mechanical imbalance in feet will cause cramping of shortened muscles; the best prevention in this situation is stretching exercises. Finally, muscle cramping can sometimes be a result of an electrolyte (sodium/potassium) imbalance caused by overuse of diuretics, some of which deplete the body of potassium. Eating bananas, drinking orange juice or tonic water, or taking potassium supplements can often help in this situation, but be sure to check with your doctor first.
When you do experience cramps, place your feet under running water, starting with cool water and switching to lukewarm. Then give yourself a good foot massage.
Strenuous activity, such as an unusual amount of walking, running, climbing, or even simply standing, can also hurt the muscles in your foot's arch. The arch is the area of tissue and muscle that runs along the bottom of the foot from the heel to the ball. The best remedies for arch pain include rest and a regimen of ice packs followed a few hours later by heat. Massaging the foot will also help.
You can prevent future cramping and muscle pain by wearing well-made shoes, especially when you walk or run. If you want to begin an exercise program but haven't been very active before, start slowly and increase the intensity of your workouts gradually.
Severe or continuing arch pain can be a sign that you have developed plantar fasciitis or tendinitis, which are more serious arch problems. See the pages of this article on treating injured foot arches and tendons for more information.
Sprained ankles are another type of foot injury that can result from too much strenuous exercise. Find out how to handle this situation on the next page.
To learn more about treating and avoiding problems with your feet, visit:
- Everyday Foot Problems: Discover what causes some of the most commonly encountered foot problems, as well as how to treat or avoid them.
- How to Care for Your Feet: Learn how to keep your feet -- and yourself -- healthy and happy with these tips on caring for your feet, including selecting the right shoes.