A toe cramp is a sudden pain or spasm that may occur in all or just a few of the toes at once. Sometimes the cramping toe can be seen to bend or twitch. These cramps can cause toes to bend sideways and almost cross over each other. There are different causes of cramps in toes as well as treatments for them. In many cases, however, a cramp lasts a few seconds and goes away on its own.
Toe cramps are thought to be mainly caused either by moving the toes too much or by overly constricting them. Dancers who flex their toes and dance en pointe are prone to cramps, as are people who wear shoes that don't allow much room at the tips. The area at the tip of a shoe in which the toes fit is called a toe box. Shoes with toe boxes that are too pointed or rounded at the tips may be too constricting and cause wearers to be susceptible to cramps.
Diabetics or others with nerve damage in the feet are also susceptible to toe cramp problems. Some medications may cause cramps in the toes as a side effect. Another possible cause of is a lack of minerals, such as calcium and potassium, in the body. Dehydration is another body problem that could cause cramping toes.
Toe cramps usually aren't anything serious, but they can be painful. Placing an ice pack on the toes may help relieve the pain. Keeping the toes flexible may help. Some people do toe exercises, such as trying to pick up small objects like pens off of the floor with their toes. Others may find that this type of activity may actually cause them to have a toe cramp.
Gently massaging the toes may help relieve toe cramping. If the toe pain is sharp, standing up and placing all one's weight on the affected toes may work to lessen the severity of the cramps. This pressure method may work especially well if the cramping has spread upwards to the ankle and leg, as it may do in some toe cramp cases. Wearing shoes with a wide toe box area is a good preventive measure in helping to avoid the cramping of toes in footwear. Avoiding wearing high heels is also recommended, as the toes tend to get slanted downward as well as become confined in a pointed or narrow toe box area.