Travel Problem: Swollen Ankles

When I travel, my poor ankles swell. On short flights it’s not too bad, but when I have long flights, or a lot of flights in a short period of time, it can be a little bit frightening. I don’t understand all of the physiological background, but I have found a few things that help me. And since sometimes (after a particularly bad trip) it can take a full week for  everything to shrink back to normal, and since my sister’s wedding is next Saturday and I really don’t have a full week to wait, I brought it all out for this trip.

Compression socks. Yes, it sounds like something my Memaw would wear. But compression socks are the easiest way to keep ankles and feet down to a manageable level during a flight. Somehow the additional support keeps your blood flow going and that keeps swelling down. When I took the 24 hour flight to Manila I wore compression socks, and the swelling wasn’t bad at all. Especially considering how long I was in transit.

Stretching and movement. On a flight, try to flex your feet and ankles every 20-30 minutes or so. This aids blood flow in your lower extremities.  Also, move around on the flight whenever possible. The general guidelines are to get up and walk once an hour. Not only does this help control swelling, but it can help to avoid Deep Vein Thrombosis, a potentially fatal occurance.

Fluids. Water, water, water!! Drink as much water as you can handle during flights. This helps to keep your blood flowing as well as flushing toxins, and keeping your skin looking good to boot.

Avoid alcohol and caffeine. This is a hard one for me.  I love my Diet Coke, and I love my wine! However both can affect blood flow and dehydrate you. I figure I will do my best to avoid these wonderful but drying beverages while in flight, but not worry too much about when I am on the ground.

Keep your feet up. When you are not on a plane, elevate your feet above your heart level. One way is to lie on a couch or bed with your feet on pillows, again assisting with blood flow. This is also a good time to flex your feet and ankles.

These suggestions are not fool proof, and they won’t necessarily help you avoid ankle and foot swelling all together. However you should be able to keep it from being terrible, and the recovery time down to a minimum. Cute shoes here I come!!


  1. […] I never dreamed this could happen. Lulu Lemon (possibly my favorite place on earth. ties with Sephora) has come out with…..wait for it…..cute compression socks!! I got the email yesterday and have already asked for them for my birthday (thanks big sis!!) which is in a week.  They are super cute and extra cushiony (according to the description). The last compression socks I got were black and very boring. Not ugly, just not cute or exciting. Sorry, TravelSmith. I’ll still use the other ones–it can’t hurt to have two pairs to help combat ankle swelling. […]


  1. You should get my mom to show you how to do a lymphatic massage. She has the smae issue but ten times worse, and she can get anthing to un-swell.

  2. My feet also swell so I am careful in regards to sodium intake before long trips (skip fried and salty foods) and I do not remove my shoes. I have these great tennis shoes by Diesel that are lightwight, easy to stuff in my carryon, and have elastic instead of laces. I love wearing them when flying and I slip on my pumps on the shuttle on the way to the rental car place. I also take aspirin 24 hours prior to each trip but you should check with your doctor, you may benefit from a mild diuretic. Put compression hose on as early in the day as possible and leave your shoes on while in the plane. Also, there is a product by Apivita called “mask for tired feet & legs with ruskus”. It comes in handy travel size packets and you can massage it into your swollen feet at night for immediate relief while on a trip.

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