Foot and leg cramps while paddling

I’ve always had a lot of lower leg and foot cramps. Sometimes they happen while I’m paddling or getting in and out of the boat. I stretch beforehand and hydrate, but I still have those excruciating cramps. Does anyone else have these, and if so, what remedies do you use?

Welcome to the club
My leg cramps are inversely proportional to the amount of time I have been on the water in any given season. I find I can minimize the cramping (and numbness) by doing hamstring stretches during the weeks before my first outing. A short bout of stretching before getting into the boat also helps. While on the water, I find - no kidding- that doing “butt clenches” seems to encourage blood flow and a loostening of the leg muscles. Just alternate L-R-L-R-L-R for a minute or so when you feel a tightness.

This is NOT a crank post!


Knee Roll
I use a Nalgene bottle as a dry box, and place it under my right knee as a support…use a rolled Thermarest mattress if you need both knees supported.

Try alternately extending and shortening the reach to your footpegs…

I second that idea.
Forgot to mention it. Lack of support under the knees adds to the problem. Some folks on this board have used partially inflated dry bags, pool noodles, and other creative items.


wear Crocks over my neoprene socks. when I get in my boat, I take off the Crocks as I step in, then place them under each leg, handy for when I get out. saves my neoprene socks from walking on rocks etc and supports the legs while paddling…it’s a TwoFer

Best Wishes


There are multiple sources for this.
One (sigh) is lack of circulation as we age. There isn’t much you can do about that except exercise and keep yourself in shape. Another is hip pads that are too tight. Be sure there is a small amount of play side-to-side in your seat. A small amount will not affect rolling or boat control. Third is pressure on the sciatic nerve in your leg. The suggestions above for supporting your knees are helpful. Actually you need to look at the entire outfitting system for your feet and legs. Putting some foam between the outside of your knees and the hull will remove the strain that some experience from keeping the knees vertical and in the knee braces. Your leg will be more relaxed and less likely to cramp. Pressure on the ball of your foot will also contribute to the problem. Installation of a bulkhead footrest will help as will supporting your feet at the heel rather than the toe. Good luck!

Eat banans
They contain potasium(sp) which will help keep cramps at bay.

I use a canoe.
sit, kneel, feet under, feet out, sometimes stand, aaaaahhh so comfy :wink:

I hate it! But it works. The hydrating and bannana’s helped too. Also moving, I lift myself up out of the seat whenever I get a break to get the circulation going.

circulation vs nerve compression
hard to say and I agree with all the above posts, but would add one thing; be sure to have comfortable fitting shoes/boots on your feet. If your feet are comfortable on their rest, whether foot-rests or foam block, the rest of your leg will be relaxed and less likely to cramp.


Any doctor or therapist will tell you to
Any doctor or therapist will tell you to

move around, stretch, and so on. They will also say that sitting with a portion of your body still for a long time is not good, can even be life threatening as in clots, etc

I know it involves learning extra strokes and advancing your skill levels, but a canoe sure is a lot more comfortable, healthy, and all around enjoyable.

Used to kayak for awhile when the kids wanted to. They grew up and I got my comfort back. Also lost numb butt, leg asleep, ankle stiff, shoulders sore, and all the other kayak particular things I sure do not miss!

Oh yeah, I even have room to throw the occasional kayakers extra food in my cooler and their camp chair in my canoe. If they beg real nice that is. ;^)

There are several groups here on that meet regularly to paddle. One particular group was almost split 50-50 canoe and kayak. Unlike other groups, this group does do overnights frequently. Very few canoeists picked up a kayak, but I do believe every kayaker did pick up a canoe or three over just a few years!

Get comfortable and go in real style, get a canoe!

LOL kayakers everywhere! For if you all wanted canoes my boats would be harder to find and more expensive. ;^)

Ok, I’m heading to the bunker now. Fire away!!!



This is what worked for me…
…I held the paddle in my hands.

Worked wonders.

Sciatic nerve…
Dr. Disco has a good point. Make sure your seat is not reclined so that the front edge pushes too much into your legs. Pinching this nerve can make your legs and feet cramp up.

I also second the yoga recommendation.

just my $0.02, good luck

I second Matt!
I will occasionally paddle for up to 12 hours straight so I know cramping and numb-butt. When I am able to shift, kneel, etc in the canoe the pain goes away. I may only kneel for a few minutes every hour or so but it does wonders. Unless you are going out into the Ocean you might want to get a canoe to help your pain and to take you away from the dark side…

Potassium - good

MSM - good

Moving legs around

Push foot-pegs forward so you aren’t keeping too much pressure on your feet and thigh hooks but can still point your toes and tighten up to brace

Get a Tempest so you can adjust the front of the seat up to support your thighs. Saves on pool-noodles, eh Flatpick?

Finally, I’ve been off Lipitor for a few weeks and my hip/leg soreness and twitching is much better. Next week I’ll see what my doc thinks about that.

Thanks for all the replies!
I also heard on “The People’s Pharmacy” a caller claimed to stop leg cramps by pinching his upper lip. My hamstring started cramping last night and I clamped down on my upper lip and…darned if it didn’t work. Maybe it works on the theory of distraction?? I don’t know, but next time I paddle, I’ll load up on bananas and cushion my legs and feet more. Thanks again!

leg cramps
One solution is to partially inflate your paddlefloat and put it under your knees. Keeps your legs from falling asleep and is ready to deploy as a recovery aid.